A Combat Reporter's Report
WHAT'S A WOMAN
By DICKEY CHAPELLE
24 pages of photographs
Combat reporting is an area usually
marked "for men only." But Dickey
Chapelle (who stands just over five feet
in her paratrooper's boots) has never
paid homage to the usual conventions.
As a "cub" reporter out of Milwaukee
she sold a story to The New York Times
detailing her sensations in the open o <M \ -
pit of a Navy fighter while nialxLi^ :
terminal velocity ptn^T <imv !
time on, "Wiiai's IL tvoniani doiii.u, iiere- 1 "
has been a question asked by other pilots,
paratroopers, U.S. Marines, Hungarian
Freedom Fighters, Russian secret police,
Cuban and Algerian Revolutionaries
and Americans the world over . . . when,
for example, Dickey Chapelle
dodged Japanese bullets on an I wo
Jima hill-top . . .
(Please turn to back flap)
Jacket design by Lydia Fruhauf
WILLIAM MORROW R: COMPANY
Front jacket photo taken while Dickey
Chapelle was on maneuvers with the
101st Airborne Division.
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on preseniatpi of library card.
Please report lost, cards and
chanM of ^
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or other library materials
checked out on their cards.
WHAT'S A WOMAN DOING HERE?
What's A Woman Doing Here?
A REPORTER'S REPORT ON HERSELF
By Dickey Chapelle
WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, NEW YORK 1962
Copyright 1961 by Dickey Chapelle
All rights reserved.
Published simultaneously in the Dominion of
Canada by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto.
Printed in the United States of America.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 62-7716
This book is frankly autobiographical, which makes
it very hard to share my responsibilities for the stories
it tells or the manner of their telling. But I owe the
deepest debt of heartfelt gratitude for the wisdom
and patience (and I suspect downright forebearance)
of the book's four editors: Hobart Lewis, who be-
lieved in it before a line was written; Barbara Rex,
who believed in it when there were far too many
lines, and Lawrence Hughes and Adele Dogan who
made its scarred drafts into a book.
Saigon, South Vietnam
1. A Long Way From Milwaukee 9
2. First Flight 23
3. No More Mail 41
4. On to Iwo Jima 62
5. The U.S.S. Samaritan 75
6. The Sound of Wasps 86
7. "As Far Forward . . ." On Okinawa 97
8. "Shoot on Sight . . ." 114
9. Chapelle Photo Team 128
10. Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 144
11. F6 Street Prison 156
12. The Long Wait 178
13. The Sentence 195
14. Operation Squirrel: Algeria 219
15. The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 240
16. Assignment in Cuba 254
17. With My Eyes Wide Open 279
1. A Long Way From Milwaukee
IT WAS COLD in the darkness on the Iron Curtain.
Here the curtain was a cornfield, really a belt of starlit
fields ten miles deep joining Austria and Hungary. But i
you were walking across, it was better to think of the fields
only one at a time, and the journey as just one step after
another. Better for me, anyhow, because I knew I had to
take more steps than the men did since my woman's stride
was shorter than theirs. And each needed to be made care-
fully, with knees high, so my boots would not crunch out
loud against the icy grain stubble as I put my weight down.
It was 2 A.M. on December 6, 1956, the time of the Hun-
garian revolt. I had left the security of the free world, in the
company of two Hungarian freedom fighters, five hours
Only the man ahead of me knew how to find our destina-
tion, and he was using a little compass held inside his gloved
hand more and more often now. The place he sought was a
small village that had looked no different on the map than
any other Hungarian hamlet near the border. But we had
learned from the refugee underground that the village was
not the same as the rest. One of its frame buildings was a
hospital the only hospital for many miles around. To reach
it was our objective.
10 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The man behind me was carrying a double pack. The
second load was ten pounds of penicillin, its delivery to the
hospital the men's reason for making the patrol.
There was one force in Hungary which, in spite of our
innocent mission, we feared the secret police, the AVH
(Allam Vedelmi Hatosag, or State Protecting Organization).
Now if their elite, the AVO (Allam Vedelmi Osztag, or Spe-
cial Group for State Protection) had been patrolling out
here, I knew in my heart none of us would have come.
The short sturdy figure ahead of me I knew only as OH.
Like many refugees who had come through safely to the free
world after the revolution, OH was ready to tell his story but
not his name. For his family was in Hungary, and within
ready reach of the AVH. He himself had been studying
engineering at the University of Budapest before he became
an anti-tank gunner during the fighting. I knew this was
his tenth Iron Curtain crossing. He had walked out of Hun-
gary the first time in mid-November, then gone back again
and again to lead out other Hungarians, some all the way
from Budapest. Tonight's trip might seem long to me we
were beyond the routes I already knew but it would be a
short one for him.
Ferri, behind me with the medicine on his back, was a big
man in his late twenties, broad of shoulder and long of
stride. He too had been a university student. He was married
to a pretty wide-eyed brunette whose picture he had showed
to me back in Vienna. They had a daughter. His wife and
child were still in Budapest, and it was in part because of
them that he had volunteered to come with us. He had heard
011 was planning to deliver penicillin so refugee children
could be injected before they were carried across the corn-
fields; the antibiotic was to reduce the chance of their con-
tracting pneumonia from the cold. Ferri had been ready to
make a sentimental journey to see his family once more. So
A Long Way From Milwaukee II
he had offered to help deliver medicine for other children
on his way.
To the two freedom fighters, I'd been an unknown quan-
tity and my inclusion on their trip had been a concession or
at least a privilege.
I had been sent to Austria from New York only three
weeks before on a double mission. I was Life's photographer
assigned to report on the Hungarian refugees, and also the
publicist from the International Rescue Committee, the
American relief agency through which the Charles Pfizer
Company had sent a million dollars' worth of penicillin from
Brooklyn to the freedom fighters of Hungary.
I had wanted to come on the patrol because Life needed
to know the story of the refugees, and the Committee needed
to know about the delivery of the medicine. But my pro-
fessional reasons for being in the cornfields seemed remote
by now. Something else just as personal was more immediate
how fast I could walk. I was ten years older than my com-
panions, and hence the men were moving across the Iron
Curtain more slowly than they could have gone without me.
This is what I was thinking about when Oli halted us with
a silent gesture behind a line of poplar trees.
"I'm lost," he began flatly. In his broken English he went
on, "We should be on railroad. After crossing canal/' He
didn't need to add that we had crossed three canals our
soaking clothing was enough of a reminder and found no
railroad tracks at all.
As we crouched and murmured, I studied the field before
us. It was bigger than the last one, and bordered by an
irrigation ditch. A narrow stone footbridge lay at our feet.
In the center of the field rose a great haystack, frosted like
a cake with snow. Oli was pointing to it now. He explained
in breathy whispers that if there was anyone in the field,
they would be using the haystack as protection against the
12 What's A Woman Doing Hcrcf
icy wind. "You two stay. I'll scout," he finished, and began
to sidle around the edge of the ditch.
Ferri and 1 nodded and stood up to ease the muscles in
OH had been right to be suspicious. But he was right just
about five seconds too late. He had not gone far on his way
when from behind the haystack a rocket flare whooshed up
and burst, pin-point accurate, directly over Ferri and me. In
its shocking daylight brightness, we could see three baby-
pink stars in a neat row pop out from one end of the hay-
stack, while three separate stars were born at the other.
Firecracker noises snapped clear in the icy air.
We were being fired on from a range of about twenty
yards by a submachine gun and three rifles. I threw myself
flat too quickly to see if Ferri had done the same. Oli had
disappeared in the darkness.
There were no more shots, and we had just time to realize
that inexplicably at that range neither of us had been hit
before four soldiers strode across the footbridge to surround
Now why hadn't the patrol challenged us before they
opened fire? And why, oh why hadn't I learned enough
Magyar to be able to at least ask? Instead I had to stand by
dumbly while Ferri opened his knapsack to display the medi-
cine,; I was certain it would reassure our momentary captors.
After all, weren't words like PENICILLIN and BROOKLYN sym-
bols of international amity anywhere?
Somehow, though, their magic was not working here. The
men with the rifles were only curious. But the man with the
submachine gun, obviously their sergeant, was something
else. He wascontemptuous.
He gestured for Ferri to pack up the knapsack again. Then
he addressed his men with grunts and prodded Ferri and me
with the barrel of his weapon.
A Long Way From Milwaukee 13
He made It clear we were going to do whatever he had in
mind; it was to resume walking. But neither hiking nor
marching. Now we walked boxed in with a man on each
side of us and ahead. The patrol leader walked behind us
carrying the submachine gun not over his shoulder but in
his hands. We were moving in the most secure fashion for
four soldiers to guard two prisoners. Now why did our cap-
tors think us that dangerous?
We came to a wide dry gulch lying across our path. At
the far lip, the sergeant halted us.
His order didn't just make me stop walking. My whole
being hung on the word and time stood still.
The word had been Stoi!
This is not the Magyar meaning halt. It is the Russian.
We had not been captured by some roving Hungarian
army patrol as I had thought. At least their noncom was a
When he nudged us forward again, I was sleep-walking.
At the muzzle of a submachine gun, I was being marched
across an icy field some ten miles on the wrong side of the
Iron Curtain. The weapon was in the hands of one of my
country's enemies whose forces had been indulging in an
orgy of slaughtering civilians. Only a minute before, I'd
worried lest the sergeant stumble with his gun at the ready.
It had occurred wryly to me that he might have a peculiar
problem explaining to his commanding officer how his stray
bullet had happened to hit an unarmed female captive.
Now I knew he could pull the trigger if he thought it a
good idea at the time, roll two bodies into a gully and never
have to explain anything to anybody. This sort of thing was
so common in his world there was even a euphemism for it:
I'd been almost too weary to walk erect before we were
14 What's A Woman Doing Here?
fired on. Now I noticed I was walking faster than I had all
night. The whole thing was impossible. But it was also real
But how could it have come about that I, an unarmed
woman on an errand of no military significance at all, was
computing odds on being administratively executed in a
Hungarian cornfield? This submissive figure under a flap-
ping headscarf in dripping overcoat and faltering boots, help-
less as any refugee no, more so, for I didn't speak the
gunholders* languages was me. Not anybody else.
I told myself I was just a reporter, an onlooker, an ob-
server. Not a participant in events at all.
I looked up at the Big Dipper, a quick glance because I
didn't want to lose my footing in the uneven snow. It was
the same Dipper I knew in the States. Winking, it seemed to
answer me. You were an observer. You were an American
woman free to choose what you would do. You could have
stayed a magazine writer or a publicist as you had been back
in secure New York. You could have married again and not
be a working girl at all tonight.
In short, you were a reporter by choice,
Now you are a prisoner, cut oft from that other world.
Across my mind's eye came the faces of the people of that
world who were behind my assignment here. Finally, I set-
tled on one face, a man's face.
It was a sound choice, symbol of greater cold and greater
hazard. It was the face of my ranking chief, the man who
headed the International Rescue Committee, Rear Admiral
Richard Evelyn Byrd.
He also had been the first target of my teen-age hero-
worship, and I found it reassuring to think of him here.
Thus comforted I stumbled almost on the heels of the rifle-
man in front of me. He fired a flare back over us, and turned
to glare at me. For an instant in the light he himself seemed
only startled flesh and blood, young as the boys Fd gone to
A Long Way From Milwaukee 15
high school with. Then the sergeant grunted at him, and he
threatened me with his rifle butt. So when we picked up the
pace he was again an embodiment of evil, an enemy, and I
was again a prisoner a long way from home.
Home to ine in that instant did not mean New York. It
I grew up in a Milwaukee family that knew what permis-
sive meant before anybody ever heard the word. Our gray
square house stood in a little suburb called Shorewood just
north of the city. Its eight rooms sheltered at one time or
another during my growing-up a round dozen adults of the
family and only two children, my younger brother, Bob, and
So of course there was no one who could make a no! to us
youngsters mean no. If one grown-up said we weren't to
walk the fence top that overlooked Mother's rambler roses,
we could always find another to encourage us and teach us
a better system of fence-walking. I didn't even learn the
discipline of housekeeping chores because there were so
many women under one roof.
This was fine, except that when I reached the normal age
for rebellion, it was a genuine problem to pick anything
against which to rebel.
School would have been a logical target, I suppose. But
the local public system was experimenting with progressive
education, and they were letting me finish the ninth through
twelfth grades in three years. And I was getting A's.
How about boys? It was true that I was not doing so well
in this department. I may have contributed somewhat to my
own difficulties. At fifteen, I was not much over five feet
tall, weighed 153 pounds, was shaped like a straight-sided
box and usually wore corduroy skirts, boys' shirts and snow
boots to school. But tomboys were no novelty in suburban
16 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Milwaukee. When I was a high school freshman, we must
have had at least eleven of them in my class because I re-
member the soccer team on which I naturally played full-
back trounced the sophomore girls and then challenged the
boys. The dean of women, in a seizure of utter sanity,
banned the game. But we knew we could have won it. No,
I really had nothing against boys.
How about revolting against the family?
My Dad was a short, neat, balding man who moved de-
liberately and spoke firmly. He was a loyal and active Repub-
lican, a vocal and dedicated baseball fan, and, from behind
his rimless glasses, a ritualistic reader of The Milwaukee
Journal and the weekly Literary Digest.
He was a salesman in the American tradition, supporting
his family on straight commission. He sold metal lath and
other materials to builders all over the state. But not by any
hard sell methods. He refused to tout the virtues of his prod-
ucts. His home office in the big city of Chicago considered
this fairly aberrant and I suppose it reduced our income.
But it provided me with a legacy of hating at least to be
caught telling an untruth.
Although he never put it into words, I knew he was proud
of me for one of my childhood abilities. He often had taken
me along on his calls at building construction projects. He
would tell me to follow him as he walked across the high
boards and roof beams. I was always frightened but I never
could bring myself to admit it so I did as he told me. I
thought he'd never notice but one day he said kindly, "You
won't fall, I promise, if you don't look down. Look ahead."
I've since applied his advice to logs over rivers, ropes over
chasms, cargo nets down ship sides, parachutes, front lines
and assorted abstractions and it hasn't let me down yet. No,
I couldn't rebel against Dad.
Grandpa was no better target for rebellion. He was a big
A Long Way From Milwaukee 17
man with tremendously broad shoulders and an echoing
laugh. He wore a wide white mustache which tickled, and
it even occasionally smelled of Limburger cheese, which I
loved. Grandpa was a fisherman and a gamesplayer, too. I
learned to cast with a half-size reel from his green rowboat,
to play a lighthearted game of chess in the garden when
the summer was hot, and a dead-serious game of Canfield
in the living room on cold winter evenings, one-card-at-a-
time and no replay of the deck allowed.
My grandmother was as tiny and wise and gay as anyone
IVe ever known. Her one frustrated ambition was to be a
circus bareback rider. Though I know she would have set-
tled for a career as a poetess if she had not been busy raising
four children. She liked to have me read ballads and son-
nets to her, including her own from a yellowing notebook
full of her precise handwriting. She taught me to sew doll
clothes on her foot treadle machine, and to upholster the
dollhouse furniture Grandpa had set me to carving. 1 re-
member her best behind her ironing board, standing almost
on tiptoe as she briskly pressed Grandpa's starched collars.
Revolting against Grandma would have been to deny my
Two aunts often were with us, and I'd be hard put to say
which blessed more of my brother Bob's nonsense or mine.
The elder was Louise, whose social doings sometimes were
mentioned in the society column of The Journal and who,
even more important, was a superb cook. Georgette, the
younger, tall, dark and slender as I was sure I'd never be,
was the career girl of the family, finally becoming a consult-
ant on labor relations. The two aunts agreed that we two
children were the most promising young people alive. How
could I quarrel with anyone who promoted that thesis?
As for revolting against my mother I didn't dare. Nobody
else did, either.
18 What's A Woman Doing Here?
It wasn't only that she stood tall under a crown of blonde
hair and had improbably blue eyes and a fine full figure.
She had, too, a general's taste for problem-solving, as long
as the problem had to do with people she knew face-to-face
and included no abstractions. Her invariable formula was
to recommend in drill instructor accents that they be more
affectionate and considerate, and she never sensed any in-
congruity between her mannerism and her advice. She was
usually right, of course, that most of the world's ills stemmed
from too little love, and not too much, a lesson I was to
ponder often in my life.
But finally I showed a glimmer of normalcy. At fifteen,
I developed a mad passion for the movies. I sneaked off to the
Oriental Theatre, the local gingerbread palace, one Saturday
afternoon. The picture that week was from Admiral Byrd's
first expedition to the South Pole.
It hypnotized me. I came home in a daze and announced
I was going to be an aerial explorer.
Something of the sort was in the cards, now that I think of
it. Consider the pin-ups my generation of teens picked.
There was Jean Harlow (who for me was out, after the soc-
cer bit), Claudette Colbert (who hadn't really done anything
much in "It Happened One Night"), Johnny Weissmuller
(he was no novelty in a countryside of lakes like Wisconsin
where everyone including me could swim like a fish anyway)
and Charles Lindbergh (whom I for some reason considered
Omitted from my personal list were Jack Dempsey (he
always looked as if he needed a shave) and Gene Tunney.
They were eligible as childhood heroes in other families,
but not in ours. Never mind that boxing was a sport; its prac-
titioners had something to do with violence, and we were
pacifists by heredity. This was fact. The original member
of the family to come to America had been an innkeeper
A Long Way From Milwaukee 19
who protested the Duke of Wurttemberg's draft laws in 1848
and was exiled. I had been well-taught that violence in any
form was unthinkable. It was so unthinkable that it became
as attractive a mystery to me as sex seemed to be to other
teen-agers. I wasn't aware of any lack in my family's teach-
ings about where babies came from, but I knew I'd never
learn about the far-more-taboo mysteries of violence. There
would never be any war anywhere on earth in my lifetime;
the first World War had been too terrible for humanity to
make such a mistake again. I tried to understand, and duti-
fully looked away from scenes in the movies where one hu-
man being was hostile to another, especially if he hit him.
But none of this proscription applied to the heroism of
Richard Evelyn Byrd. He was a fighter, but he struggled
only with nature!
Being a girl might slow me down a little, but there was
no other reason not to follow in his footsteps. The first thing
I'd do would be to learn to fly. . . .
I told this to Mother as she kneeled beside Dad's wing
chair onto which she was fitting a new flowered slip cover.
She uncoiled to her full height and dignity, taking pins one
by one from between her lips, and intoned with flashing
eyes, "No daughter of mine is going to set foot in an air-
I was dumbfounded. For the first time she was flatly telling
me there was something I wouldn't be permitted to do.
Dimly, I could hear the reactions of the rest of the family,
gathered in the living room that Saturday afternoon.
Dad said, "Edna, I don't think she'd be afraid."
Uncle Hans said, "She wouldn't have to fly to design air-
Grandpa said, "You know she's too young to know her
own mind, Edna."
Louise said, "Is that child getting enough to eat, Edna?"
20 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Grandma said, "I think she 'd meet some nice young men
that way, Edna."
Georgette said, "Oh, dear, Edna, I did so hope she'd want
to learn to type"
My brother said, "Mama, if she can fly, I want to"
Apparently, the chorus convinced Mother that she had
been less than loving. She improvised an alternative for me
a positive one.
"You," she told me, "are not going to fly. English is the
easiest subject for you in school. So what you are going to
do is become a writer."
A writer? I shuddered. Of course I could express myself
intelligibly; hadn't I been practicing talking to an indulgent
audience since I was big enough to make a noise in my
throat? But writers were intellectuals of some stripe; I was
a pretty good soccer fullback. The idea of me as Sir Walter
Scott or even Louisa Mae Alcott, both of whom I greatly
admired, was ridiculous.
I was wise enough not to say so. However, I knew how I'd
revolt against this outright dictation from Mother, I'd ignore
Between the extremes of not setting foot in an airplane
and not being a writer, I found ample room for maneuver in
the next year. My uncle's remark about designing airplanes
gave me a direction. I applied for scholarships to Purdue
University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
My grades were high enough to earn an offer from both
places. But M.I.T/s covered full tuition and this almost set-
tled the matter.
Not quite, however. I've said the family was permissive,
but what saved my brother Bob and me from utter early
ruin was that this was the time of depression, 1935, Our
folks couldn't give us money they didn't have. If I held out
A Long Way From Milwaukee 21
for going a thousand miles from home to school, on what
funds was I planning to live?
I was now sixteen, and I'd already earned twenty-five cents
an hour shelving library books, fifty cents an hour tutoring
geometry and the whole sum of $10.50 in more prophetic
fashion. Three dollars had been paid to me by a firm which
published a navigation textbook used by Admiral Byrd in
planning his second polar flight. I had studied it and found
an arithmetical error in one of the tables of variables in the
appendix. I wrote the publishers and they paid as well as
thanked me. I framed the letter and hung it on the wall of
my room beside the football pennant.
The rest of the money I'd earned by accidentally writing
a magazine article. I'd begun reading aviation trade maga-
zines and become a letter-to-the-editor addict. I'd written
several long ones to a slim bi-monthly published in Wash-
ington, D. C., The United States Air Services, It was edited
by a founding father of the aviation industry named Earl N.
Findley. He answered my ebulliences with gravity; once he
wrote, "But why do you want to fly?" My reply covered nine
typewritten pages (I'd. learned to type by now, as Aunt
Georgette had wished). Mr. Findley was bemused, printed
my letter and sent me a check for $7.50. 1 was secretly thrilled
at the sight of the words in print but I showed the check to
my mother with scorn.
"I wouldn't even be able to buy my new tennis racquet
with the whole check," I reminded her. "'No, you see,
Mother, you just can't live by writing."
But it turned out I had a skill on which I could live, in
theory at least. I spoke German as did many youngsters in
Milwaukee, having learned it from Grandma. Out in Bos-
ton, an Army family had appealed to the student employ-
ment bureau at M.I.T. for someone who would be a
22 What's A Woman Doing Bere?
nursemaid to their two children and teach them German in
return for board and room.
After an exchange of letters, they decided the assignment
was mine. So it was Captain Tom Evans and his wife, Elea-
nor, who finally made it possible for me to attend M.I.T.
2. First Flight
BEING A Tech woman in the year 1935 never mind that I
was only sixteen; the phrase still was Tech woman somehow
was not exactly the way I had thought it would be.
Nothing in my schooling in Wisconsin had prepared me
for courses demanding this amount of time and concentra-
tion. I don't even know if I could have mastered them had I
studied as many hours each evening as I should have. Nor
was I better qualified for chores at the Evans* house, but,
for every hour I wasted as an inept nursemaid, I wasted two
on discovering Boston. One day I found out that ship tur-
bines were being built at the Navy Yard, I had never seen a
piece of machinery being constructed which so nearly epito-
mized power, and I was wide-eyed when I learned that it in
turn was not put together by another machine but assem-
bled, blade by blade, by human hands that needed a sur-
geon's sensitivity. Ebulliently, I told one of the officers how
impressed I was and hea Tech graduate, of course, invited
me to come to the Yard two hours every Monday morning
so his machinists mates could teach me how to set turbine
blades myself. The men let me handle their tools and finally
read their gauges for them as they worked. It was much more
fun than doing laboratory work in Chemistry I, which was
where I should have been on Monday mornings.
24 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Next I discovered that they flew ship-surveillance patrols
from the nearby Coast Guard base, applying the same navi-
gation techniques I'd learned from the books I'd read back
home. The dispatchers were willing to show off how they
tracked their lumbering seaplanes far from sight of shore.
This was better than Freshman Engineering Drawing class,
by a wide margin. I drafted an article about it, stumbled into
the office of The Boston Traveler while I was trying to find
The Boston Transcript, and sold the story as a Sunday fea-
In a snowstorm just before Christmas, I discovered Bos-
ton's most significant landmark, to me, the residence of
Admiral Byrd's family (the Admiral was back in Australia).
While circling it in awe, I noticed a narrow building a few
blocks away with a sign in one dusty window which read
ROOM FOR RENT. The words up 5 FLIGHTS had been added in
The room was a white-washed half of the attic, and a slat-
ternly landlady said, "You'll have to clean it up yourself.
Last lady we had here just died of tuberculosis. So I won't
ask you more than $2,50 a week."
I had a fortune in my purse at the moment. Eight dollars
from the newspaper and ten dollars from my mother. I paid
the rent, borrowed the landlady's pail and mop and resigned
as the Evans* desultory nursemaid.
My deep-breathed freedom, of course, was too good to last.
I must have more money and I would have to get to work on
Chemistry I. Not one of my lab experiments had yielded
the right results in the final test tube. So I wouldn't be able
to pass the next chem test. There was one way at Tech that
a working student might ask for an academic test to be de-
ferred. This was still during the depression, and you needed
to prove you were gainfully employed during the hours the
First Flight 25
test was administered to your class, employed on a job you
couldn't have done at any other time.
1 faced the problem at breakfast one morning. The test
was to be given that afternoon. What could I be doing at
two that would earn money?
On the front page of The Traveler the answer to my prob-
lem stared up at me in large black letters. FLOODED WORCESTER
HUNGRY, Food Enroute by Air.
I read the story avidly. The city of Worcester (population
240,000 then) was cut off by a flood from truck and rail
deliveries of food. Planes were to shuttle from the main
Boston airport out to the isolated city and back all day, air-
lifting food. In my mind's eye, every resident of Worcester
was expiring from starvation and the planes were heavenly
angels. I knew The Traveler already had a staff reporter at
the airport, and there was no use asking the city editor for
that assignment. The editor's name was Gavin, I'd learned,
and in matters of chewing his cigar, playing poker and in-
timidating would-be girl reporters, he was a figure right out
of the movies. But by that same token, if I got a better story
than anybody else, I was sure he would buy it.
What was to keep me from going out to the airport to look
for it? Not a chemistry test.
Under a lowering gray sky, the field somehow did not
quite look like the point of dispatch for silver-winged angels
of mercy. A few muddy trucks were disgorging crated gro-
ceries into the blue bellies of oil-streaked airliners, but there
was no sense of mission about it. And The Traveler's staff
reporter was eyeing the process and scribbling on his copy
paper. Maybe I should go back and take the chemistry test.
But there was an unusual bustle at the far end of the field.
Parked on the flight line was a huge, deep maroon-colored
airplane, the Bellanca Air Bus, then the largest single-engine
transport in the air.
26 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I knew a little about this particular Air Bus. It was marked,
in the largest possible white letters, LA TOURAINE
COFFEE, and was flown as an advertising stunt; ship for the
coffee merchants by a Captain William Wincapaw.
The Bellanca's engine thundered into a warm-up as I
walked out onto the apron, and the face leaning out the
pilot's window had the deep tan and the old-apple wrinkles
of a veteran airman's.
"Captain Wincapaw!" I shouted.
He throttled back and seemed to be smiling as he looked
down on me.
"Are you going to Worcester?"
I saw him nod. What I shouted next was the literal truth,
but I was sure he would hear only the proper names*
"I'm an M.I.T. student trying to sell a story to The Boston
Traveler. Have you room for me?"
I don't know what I'd expected him to answer. After all,
the plane was in the publicity business and I'd mentioned a
big newspaper with all my considerable lung power. But
still I was shocked when he slid the glass panel beside him
back, leaned far out, bobbed his head vigorously, and called,
"If you can find room aboard after the bread is loaded, come
I was too busy running around the tail of the plane and
shouldering my way between wooden cases of white bread
to respect a still, small voice deep inside me. But it hit me
as soon as my feet were on the middle metal rung of the
ladder which led into the fuselage.
What would my mother say?
The thought paralyzed me.
Two perspiring bakery truck drivers were loading the
"Girlie/* said one of them plaintively, "Get in or outit
don't matter which."
First Flight 27
I got in. The captain gestured to me to sit on the crates
behind him. "Hold fast," he ordered sonorously, and taxied
to the end of the runway. And then we were in actual flight!
I wriggled around and looked out of the nearest window.
Green rolling earth, white concrete highways, gray sky and
a black raincloud for a horizon back Boston-way. In fifteen
minutes, there were patches of silver water in the low spots,
and then the whole world beneath us was a single sheet of
glassy gray water. How were we going to deliver the bread?
The landscape changed again. A few acres of hilltop, a
farmer's field, rose higher than the floodwater. Surely we
couldn't land on that dry patch?
The big Air Bus circled it, lower and lower. A young
man I hadn't noticed before unbelted himself from the co-
pilot's seat and crawled back past me to the plane's entrance
hatch. Now for the first time I understood why the engine
roar was so loud. The plane's door had been removed on the
ground and left behind. We were making the world's sim-
plest kind of airdrop. That is, as the pilot circled, the co-
pilot simply shoved the cargo, crate by crate, out of the
plane. I looked down at the drop zone again and realized
why it had been chosen. A gravel road on high ground led
from it, and there were trucks creeping out to pick up what
we were tossing to them.
While the co-pilot worked his way back through the crates,
the captain told me to take his seat. So I not only got to ride
in an airplane, but to cover the flood from the co-pilot's
place. I couldn't see how any reporter could have asked for
a better vantage point.
After we landed back in Boston and the captain had stilled
the engine, I remembered to ask how to spell his name. He
told me and added, graciously, "You might notice how La
Touraine is spelled on the airplane as you get out, J> thus
28 What's A Woman Doing Here?
giving me my first practical lesson in the relationship be-
tween advertising, free transportation and journalism, a mat-
ter no aspiring reporter can afford to ignore.
The vital consequences of my first airplane ride all came
at the same time a week later. The Traveler paid me $3.85
for the story, figured at the rate of thirty-five cents a column
inch. My journalism professor at Tech, to whom I'd sub-
mitted the story as part of my work for his course, graded it
a C plus. And my grade on the deferred Chemistry I test,
which I'd taken after two days' cramming, was Unsatisfac-
It wasn't the only exam I failed. By the end of my second
year at Tech, I barely had earned enough academic credits
to be promoted out of the freshman class.
Dean Harold Petry, mentor of the entire Institute student
body, sent for me. It didn't take the calculus I hadn't mas-
tered to predict what was going to happen.
I didn't cry till I was on the bus bound for Milwaukee, and
then only in the back seat. I'd left home with all my family's
hopes as class valedictorian. Now, two years later, I was com-
ing back having flunked out of college.
At eighteen, I had no future. This was plain as the nose
on my face to me, but my family made clear they did not
share my opinion. It was incredible but true they still
cherished me! In time, I learned that the world had not
come to a grinding halt after all, and there were some rea-
sons for being alive which applied even to teen-age girls who
had bitten off more academics than they could chew.
The Curtiss Wright airport was an oversized and under-
trafficked field lying just west of Milwaukee at the end of
the bus line that ran a block from our square gray house. To
passers-by on weekdays, it was only an expanse of concrete-
scarred meadow behind a wire fence. The field boasted a
First Flight 29
cavernous brick hangar with a curved roof, a flapping orange
wind sock and a little green frame bungalow.
But on Sundays, it looked quite different. Then the wide
gates were topped with bright-colored pennants. A big white
banner reading AIR SHOW TODAY stretched across the broad
brick side of the hangar. Temporary bleachers, hot dog
stands and souvenir counters stood against the horizon, and
balloon vendors were dwarfed in the purple shade of their
riotously colored wares.
The institution of the Sunday air circus was a bit of purest
Americana. The stunt fliers of the depression years were
their own bosses, with federal safety inspectors and finance
company investigators their natural enemies. They owned
the planes they flew and followed the seasons around the
country, performing their rituals in the sky every sunny
The circus followed an unvarying script, like a tribal rite.
It had to start late, because most of the audience had driven
through Sunday traffic to reach the site. The traditional
show opener was a ribbon-cutting act. A plane on high would
drop three or four long silver streamers and then swoop
down in a figure-eight pattern, its wings cutting the stream-
ers into confetti as it knifed among them. This was pure
ballet in the sunlight, and I sighed like a tyro dancer seeing
her first "Swan Lake/* Then one day I noticed the chunky
unshaven pilot who flew the act it was Elmer Francke, who
managed operations on the field on his way out to his plane
before take-off. He was wearing a scuffed leather flight jacket
and carrying half a dozen rolls of toilet tissue under each
arm. Suddenly I understood what the silver streamers were.
I never felt the same about ribbon-cutting again. Though
later, when I worked for him, I asked why he couldn't take a
less mundane theatrical prop. He gazed blankly at me and
SO What's A Woman Doing Here?
answered, "But from three thousand feet, they're just the
right length. What else would you use?"
The acrobatic fliers usually took over the next part of the
program, beginning* with loops only yards from the earth,
with the climaxing one flown in the outside pattern (wheels
into the middle of the circle instead of the other, or easy
way). The plane roared and trembled on the final uphill lap,
while an announcer on the public address system told the
lookers-on the hideous hazards they were watching the pilot
Then the pilots began to roll their planes. There were the
slow or barrel rolls, with the fliers reaching the upside-down
position exactly over the middle of the bleachers. There were
snap rolls, where the plane was thrown into the first maneu-
ver so violently that it whipped around time and again be-
fore it came back to level flight. The whole audience counted
out loud as the plane flipped, as if they were marking time
for marching troops.
The rolling act which always transfixed me was flown by
a giant tow-headed Irishman named Mike Murphy from
Kokomo, Indiana. Mike performed precision rolls, snapping
only one-eighth of the way around each time he touched
the plane's controls, and then freezing in that position be-
fore jolting into the next arc of his roll. Because the normal
stick-and-rudder pedals are designed to work only with
grayity or at right angles to it, each control behaved differ-
ently in each position. So anybody could have done Mike's
trick who could reflexively fly eight different control pat-
terns in eight seconds and not be diverted by the fact that he
had started so low he'd kill himself with his first mistake.
(Colonel Michael Murphy, United States Air Force, was
decorated after he lost both legs leading a glider element
into Normandy on D Day.)
The bigger air shows featured a race or a series of races.
First Flight 31
They were flown around a small triangular course marked
by pylons. Altitude was a disadvantage you had farther to
go if you were higher than other planes so racers were
never more than one miscalculation from crashing. Air rac-
ing often degenerated into a level version of the " Chicken !"
game even though all the planes were moving in the same
direction. For if two competed to occupy the same space in
the air, one had to give way or both would crash.
A really good air show featured a double climax, wing-
walking and parachute-jumping. The wing- walker performed
handstands on a plane in flight while a second aircraft carry-
ing the jumper climbed up out of sight. When the wing-
walking was done, the announcer told the audience from
what sector of the sky the jumper would appear, and at first
all you could see was a lengthening streak of white, like a
chalk-mark on a blackboard. As he fell, the jumper was
clutching a sack of flour with a hole in it. I remember one
jumper who held it with the torn corner toward his face
and temporarily blinded himself on the way. It took six
pounds of flour to mark four thousand feet of fall.
Finally you could tell that the black speck at the end of
the white streak was a human being, tumbling with hands
and legs askew. Now the crowd sucked in its breath, a few
women screamed and here and there a man cursed with his
voice oddly high. And then the jumper's parachute did open
after all. The fragile doll-like figure swinging in the harness
beneath it looked defenseless against nearby trees or build-
ings or wires, and defenseless he really was with the chutes
twenty years ago. The chutist seemed to break as he landed.
So when he strode back with the silk bundled under his arm
to accept his applause and any money collected in his name,
everyone took a deep breath just to prove he still could.
Further flying would have been an anti-climax, and the show
32 What's A Woman Doing Here?
But the barnstormer's real work of the day was just begin-
ning. Any flier whose plane could carry more than himself
was now in business, hawking rides for a dollar or two. Avia-
tion probably made more converts by the five-minute hops
into the sunset after the Sunday air shows than by any other
Though I had been thrilled into weariness myself, leaving
the field always seemed an intolerable let-down. Finally I
found a way to come back more often, every day in fact.
Half a dozen barnstorming pilots, including Francke who
leased the field so he could run a sporadic flying school
there, made their headquarters in two offices built into a
corner of the hangar. I agreed to type their correspondence
in return for a few flying lessons each week and my lunch
with the airport's caretakers, a couple of retired carnival
barkers who lived all year round in the green bungalow.
I was the least-promising flight student who ever near-
crashed a trainer on each circuit of the field. I was so near-
sighted that not even with new prescription lenses in my
glasses could I be trusted to judge height, speed or distance.
My piloting has never improved much. But the arrangement
had other advantages. It gave me the right to sit behind a
balky typewriter with the wide windows opening on the field
to my right, and an arch which opened into the hangar on
my left. For an air-addled teen, it was the perfect spot. I
could eavesdrop on shop talk about airplanes as long as I
could stay awake. I could even cover the airport doings for
the local newspapers without moving from my desk. For all
the paper work about every fueling, plane repair, parachute
packing, take-off and landing on the field was done at a
counter set at right angles to my typewriter stand.
But as the summer passed, I found my family sharing my
enthusiasm for my hard-won apprentice rating in the barn-
stormers' fraternity less and less. When fall came and
First Flight 33
Grandpa and Grandma moved into their retirement home
in Coral Gables, Florida, they took me along to stay with
them. My folks knew of no stunt pilots' little airport close
by Miami, and I couldn't find one either.
The time did come when at dinner in Florida I waited
only till the food was being served before I said, not quite
casually, "I got a job this afternoon/'
Grandpa's eyes over his white mustache grew quizzical
but he did not challenge me. Granny, in a print gingham
apron, lading mashed potatoes onto our plates with a huge
silver serving spoon, turned from me to him.
"George," she began, "the child doesn't have to work.
Edna says she's been working too hard as it is."
I was sure this was a euphemism which Granny had just
coined. My mother had never used the word work for my
typing the letters of a crew of stunt pilots and a parachutist.
But Grandpa's interest was pragmatic. He picked up his
fork and said, "Are they going to pay you on this job?"
"Fifteen dollars a week. I'm a city editor."
Grandpa roared, "You're a what?" And I had to tell the
I had been downtown on some errands for Granny when
I read the posters announcing the Tenth Annual Miami All-
American Air Maneuvers, a regular January feature of the
tourist season. This was one of the biggest air shows in the
country, and I learned by calling at the local newspapers
that its staff included a species I'd never associated with
flying beforea press agent. His office was in the Congress
Building (a few doors away from the place where years later
I was to make my first contact with Fidel Castro's under-
The air show publicist's name was Bob Quinn, a tall red-
head who looked tough and liked to sound even tougher.
34 What's A Woman Doing Here?
He took the initiative right away from me in my first inter-
"You know about air shows, huh?" he snapped. "Well, can
you write a simple declarative sentence in the English lan-
guage? 1 '
"Yes, sir/' I replied. And paused. "Well, lots of times they
come out that way."
He asked if I wanted to be a city editor. The only city
editor I'd ever known was Bill Gavin back in Boston, who
smoked cigars, yelled at copy boys and chewed out reporters.
What other duties did a city editor have?
Mr. Quinn was waiting for an answer. I asked him if he
Unlikely as it seemed, he was nodding. He said he needed
someone to write press releases about the air show. He
wouldn't pay more than fifteen dollars, he finished.
When I found out it was fifteen dollars every week, he
had himself a "city editor." The next day, Grandpa inves-
tigated and sure enough, Quinn and the job really existed.
So I was allowed to start work.
At Christmas, the country's best aviation writers began
converging on Miami. They all started their coverage of the
air show in Quinn's office. Like all correspondents, they
were more interested in having their pencils sharpened and
their hotel reservations confirmed than in any simple de-
clarative sentences I could compose. When I wasn't running
my legs off on their errands, though, a new thought wan-
dered vagrant through my mind. They were living proof
that a person could stay in the aviation business without
designing airplanes or flying them. Of course, you had to
write . . .
The Miami air maneuvers always were followed by a show
put on in Havana by the same fliers. Quinn had plans for
First Flight 35
"Remember that beauty contest for this year's Miss Miami
Aviation?" The question didn't need an answer; I had writ-
ten the newspaper biographies of the six contestants.
"Well, all six of those girls won that contest. We now have
six Miss Miami Aviations on our hands. The prize, you
remember, is a trip to Havana for the air show there. I
promised the girls' mothers I'd send a chaperone from my
office. That's you."
"But, Mr. Quinn, I'm just eighteen, and one of those girls
Quinn said it would be all right; I looked older. "Just
count them onto the boat tomorrow and count them off on
the return trip. There'd better be six both times or don't
come back. And while you're down there, see if you can do
anything for the Associated Press and The New York
Times" and he was off on a string of instructions, some of
which 1 heard through my surge of delight at the idea of an
overseas assignment. Even chaperoning beauty queens.
The six Miss Miami Aviations were guests of the Havana
government and quartered in more luxury than I had ever
seen before. We stayed at the Cabana Club on Veradero
Beach, an exotic sweep of white sand, and we commuted to
Havana's airport by shining limousine. Our official welcome
was a dinner dance in a low-ceilinged and lantern-lit coun-
try club. The six beauty queens and I (wearing my first silk
dress) were the feminine guests of honor, escorted by stunt
flier Mike Murphy, racing pilot Steve Whitman and a hand-
ful of military pilots from the Cuban forces.
Our host, sitting at the center of a long festive board, was
the chief of the Cuban air corps, Captain Manuel Orta. He
was a chunky young man with wide black mustaches who
evidently had been born with his swagger stick in his quick
brown hands. His shoulders were broad, his dark eyes flashed,
36 What's A Woman Doing Here?
his uniform and medals were blinding in their utter per-
He loved the American fliers and with every wide gesture
bade them welcome. To each he thundered in English, "My
house is your house/' After the band had played the national
anthems of both countries (accentuating the beat with ma-
rimbas) he began to explain joyously that his air force had
just been equipped with American fighter planes, Curtiss
tiawks, unqualifiedly the world's most splendid airplanes.
He beamed at us.
No one replied to him. The fact was that the redoubtable
Hawk had long since been obsolescent. But no one wanted
to be so unmannerly as to contradict our ebullient host.
When Captain Orta began proposing toasts, we all rose to
our feet while we upended our glasses. As we sat down after
the last, I asked Mike in a low voice whom we were just
drinking to. Mike answered almost under his breath,
"There's a new government in Cuba, run by some fellow
who used to be an army sergeant. His name is ahBatista."
The following morning, bright and a little too early, I
was one my way out to the field to cover the air show for
The Times. Soon the acts were roaring by overhead, one by
one. You could sense that the maneuvers were new to most
of the audience and especially exciting.
Aerodynamically, at least half a dozen of the competing
stunt planes had been built for just such esoteric sport. Of
lightweight tube and cloth construction, without an ounce
of weight not needed for control, they had been converted
for stunting by the installation of new engines, engines
vastly more powerful than necessary for ordinary flying. No
matter what unlikely attitude the plane fell into, the pilot
could call on his reserve of sheer power to pull him out.
Captain Manuel Orta's proud Curtiss Hawks, parked at
First Flight 37
the end of the flight line, looked outwardly very much like
the stunt aircraft. They weren't, of course. Their huge
engines had been installed to haul a heavy airframe, a lot of
gasoline, guns, ammunition, radio gear and bomb racks.
Surely Captain Orta, who had been taught to fly his Hawks
back in Florida, knew this in his brain. But in his proud
heart, the moment must have come when it did not seem to
matter. He was a Cuban officer and his people (including his
own wife and children) were cheering themselves hoarse at
the sight of maneuvers they never had seen the Cuban Air
Force so much as try. Orta strode over to the nearest Hawk
in line, swinging his swagger stick in the sun. He took off.
The winner of the Americans* private looping competi-
tion, flying an ivory Waco with red stripes, had just finished
his fourth outside loop a few hundred feet off the ground
when the public address system fell quiet. The announcers
(one spoke English, the other Spanish) told us that the Hawk
approaching the stands from the left was piloted by Captain
Orta, chief of the Cuban Air Force. The loudspeakers fell
silent again. The announcers didn't know what maneuver
With the greatest precision, the Hawk held course until
it whipped past the far end of the crowd. It rocked four
times, imitating the start of Mike's precision roll. This
brought it passing straight and level but upside down di-
rectly in front of the audience. And then Captain Orta be-
gan to execute the most difficult part of the most difficult
maneuver we had seen that day the recovery from the out-
side loop. Inverted, he began to pull the Hawk's nose up.
An overpowered plane could respond, but an underpowered
... At first the nose did rise. Then it was not rising any more.
The whole plane was trembling in the sky . . .
The English-speaking announcer first realized what was
38 What's A Woman Doing Here?
happening. He shouted almost with a sob, "There he-
The splintering, thundering, echoing crash wiped out
whatever else he had been trying to say.
I remember running then, running a long way over the
soft bright green grass toward the wreck. I was half-blinded
by perspiration in my eyes when I sensed a shouting soldier,
twirling his polished rifle like a baton, standing with his
legs spread, squarely in my way.
"Prensa!" I shouted. Press.
He did not move. Then I understood. I was still mangling
between my fingers a lighted cigarette I had been smoking
before the crash. The soldier was blocking me from the plane
wreckage because the butt might touch off the gasoline
sprayed on the field from the Hawk's shattered tank.
I crushed out the cigarette and continued with dozens of
other people out toward the widely strewn pieces of plane.
The sight was almost empty of horror at first because the
destruction had been nearly complete. There was nothing to
remind you of a plane or a man till you came very close.
And there was no sound nor any reminder of suffering.
At the instant of impact, Captain Orta's gleaming propel-
ler blade had become his executioner's sword and its silver
gleamed no longer.
I turned and walked slowly back toward the edge of the
field. How could the hot sunlight have turned so black in
When I realized I was looking at the concrete apron under
my feet instead of green grass, I remembered something. I
had shouted Prensa! out there, hadn't I? I was supposed to
be a reporter, wasn't I?
How easy it was to sound to myself like a real one! "Cap-
tain Manuel Orta, 31, chief of the Cuban Air Force, was
First Flight 39
killed today when his Curtiss Hawk fighter plane crashed
during an air show in front of 17,000 spectators, including
his wife and . . ."
Could any cold sentence like the one Fd just composed be
a proper requiem for the warm human being who had
elected to take that final, fatal chance because his pride was
more important than his survival?
The answer came to me like a cold wind blowing from
the city room in Boston. Yes. It was. I could sentimentalize
all I wanted, I could go on any emotional jag that pleased
me after I had filed the story. But nobody would even know
he was dead if I didn't do that. Now.
And I couldn't even start till I found a telephone booth.
The only one I could see was full to overflowing with a
tremendous man in a white cotton suit who looked as if he
might be genial after he stopped shouting into the mouth-
piece. He was. He even connected me with The Times
Havana office after I told him I didn't know their number,
what coins to use in telephoning in Cuba or how to ask for
my party in Spanish.
When I left the stifling booth a few minutes later, the big
man was still beside it. He extended his hand. "Welcome
to the fraternity," he said cordially. I shook the hand but I
asked what fraternity.
He grinned at me as if I were an idiot child but a toler-
able one. "I'm Dick Armstrong of International News Serv-
ice, and I want you to know that I wouldn't have connected
you with the competition so quickly except that I'd already
scooped you. We've had the flash for five minutes now. Next
time, girl, I wouldn't depend on the other reporters to put
you in communication with your office."
Which is how I learned a first principle from Armstrong,
the Hearst newspaper chain's Latin American expert.
Later, Dick retold the story of how The Times would
40 What's A Woman Doing Here?
have been bare of the Orta story had he not put me through
to their office. Among his listeners was Theon Wright,
United Press* aviation editor. Theon had just been ap-
pointed by Transcontinental and Western Air (Transworld
Airlines nowadays) to run their publicity bureau in New
York. Inexplicably Theon found something in the tale to my
credit and hired me as his assistant. I was to report on my
new job in New York in ten days.
On the deck of the steamer enroute back, standing at the
rail among the six Miss Miami Aviations to whose chaperon-
age I'd given such scant attention, I found my hopes higher
than the normal teen-age quota. I'd attended my first inter-
national function in my first silk dress, Yd covered my first
story for the greatest newspaper on earth and I'd somehow
made a job for myself in the most important city. What
could still happen to a person after all of that?
3. No More Mail
THE PUBLICITY OFFICES of Transcontinental and Western
Air lines in 1939 were a pair of glass-walled cubicles high in
a skyscraper, the Lincoln Building. Incongruously, the win-
dows of the company's propaganda chief Theon Wright,
my boss overlooked the front of Grand Central Station,
symbols of the railways which competed with us. For the
next two years, my place in the world was behind a type-
writer in the smaller, inner cubicle.
I commuted to it each day by subway from Brooklyn
Heights, where home to me was a hotel room about the size
of a prisoner's punishment cell. But it was clean and inex-
pensive and when I wrote to my family about it, I could
describe a hidden virtue. If I leaned over the sill of the one
window and turned my head till my neck ached, I actually
could see a tiny slice of New York's famous harbor. So I said
I had a view.
Meantime, I was trying to learn to do my new job. The
biggest part of it was typing and addressing thirteen copies
of each press announcement Theon drafted there were
thirteen daily newspapers and wire services in New York.
To this day, I can recite the name, address and phone num-
ber of every New York city, photo, and aviation editor as
of twenty years ago.
42 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The job had some high spots, riding the airline limousine
into the pink winter sunrise over the Pulaski Skyway, land-
ing aboard the flag-bedecked first airliner into LaGuardia
Field the day the mayor cut the ribbon opening the new
airport, and flying coast-to-coast without a ticket because I
was an airline employee.
I didn't know anybody in New York, but I found I rather
liked being by myself. I remember, in those purpling winter
twilights, leaving the office and walking over to Broadway,
my cold hands deep in the pockets of a hand-me-down coat,
to stand and stare at the heart of Times Square where the
headlines circled the famous flat building in lights.
HITLER OVERRUNS POLISH FRONTIER WITH FOUR PAN-
ZER ARMIES . . . AMERICAN PILOTS VOLUNTEER TO
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE . . . NEUTRALITY ACT
ENFORCEMENT DEMANDED BY BIPARTISAN LEADERS IN
The import of the news that war was daily closer did
not occur to me. But I was impressed with how much you
could learn by just looking.
Then there were Sundays. Almost every Sunday some-
where within bus or commuter train ride, I could go to an
air circus. The climaxing one in my young life came in the
summer of 1939. It was at the Long Island Aviation Country
Club. I hadn't been exactly invited, but Fred Graham, the
aviation editor of The New York Times, let me cover it for
him on space rates.
In 1939, as now, the world's fastest aircraft were military
fighters. I knew a top contender had been the U.S. Navy's
F-3, a biplane built by Grumman. No reporter ever had ac-
companied its speed tests, for the plane was a single-seater.
But here at the Club stood a model of the F-3 into which
a second cockpit had been cut. Its manufacturer had con-
No More Mail 43
strutted just this one so the F-3 could be demonstrated to for-
eign aircraft buyers who might not be themselves fliers. The
fabric-and-lacquer skin of the plane had been hand-waxed to
mirror smoothness, and in my mind's eye today I can still
see every brace and bolt and strut of her splendor, too. The
two-seater F-3 had a name. Naturally with that fire-engine
paint color it was the Scarlet Woman.
She was being flown by the junior of all Grumman's test
pilots, a flier named Converse who had resigned from the
Navy only a few weeks earlier. (Earl T. Converse today is
Grumman's vice president in charge of engineering.)
He did a maneuver in the F-3 which few air-show fans had
ever seen. It was a terminal velocity power dive. From twelve
thousand feet, he pointed the Woman's nose at the field as
if the crowd were his crash target and came straight down,
engine roaring. When the drag of the slipstream exactly
matched the pull of gravity plus the engine thrust, the plane
accelerated no more and plummeted in steadily at what the
engineers said was 413 miles an hour.
To recover control, Converse had to snap her back to level
flight. Because he began his pull-out low enough to be seen,
he had to complete it in a hurry. Each time on his sharp up-
ward turn he was caught by centrifugal force pressure on
every inch of his body and the aircraft equal to about nine
times the ordinary weight of the plane and everything in it.
In pilot's jargon, what he did was to make a 9-G pull-out.
The stunt fliers, who wrestled against four and five G
every time they put on their acts, were impressed to find a
man willing to fly such a maneuver. They agreed their acts
were a lot safer than his. The modern anti-G suit had not
been invented, but some pilots wound wide elastic band-
ages around their midsections to help their stomach muscles
resist multiple G forces. The ranking air-show flier in the
group that day was racer Al Williams, whose face was seamed
44 What's A Woman Doing Here?
like Basil Rathbone's. He addressed a last word on the sub-
ject of G-force to me.
"Anyway, that's one thing you girls won't be doing. You'll
never have the somach muscles for it." As he strode away, I
chuckled to myself. It seemed to me he'd forgotten some-
thing. We girls wouldn't need to use muscles or elastic
bandages, either. For no aeronautic reason at all, I was wear-
ing a girdle (I'd never had one before) and I was sure it
would do exactly the same job if I were going to ride high-G
AFs words hung somewhere in the back of my mind as
Converse finished his thundering performance. When he
stepped down from the plane, swinging his goggles and a
long white silk scarf, I noticed he was one of the slightest
men on the field. Apparently it didn't take a big person to
resist all that G.
Quickly, I made up my mind and looked pityingly at all
those other people in the stands who could not take the name
of The New York Times in vain, as I could. I sought out
the distinguished figure of LeRoy Grumman, who owned the
Grumman Aircraft Company. I asked him if he had ever
known of a reporter describing the sensations of a terminal
velocity power dive.
He, of course, unerringly read my mind. "If you're look-
ing for a ride in my airplane, why don't you just say so?"
I insisted my motives were also reportorial, and told him
I'd studied engineering at M.I.T. I didn't add why I wasn't
still studying it.
He answered me with a courtly nod, "Then I'd like to
read your story myself." He led me toward the hangar and
asked for pilot Converse.
"Connie, I think you'll find this young lady knows some-
thing about airplanes. See that she gets a ride in the
Woman. 9 '
A r o More Mail 45
Now that I could look at the pilot without squinting into
the sunlight, he even less resembled an iron man. He looked
just young and weary. He took his new boss aside. He men-
tioned that he had made a dozen test dives that morning
and now that the show was over, considered he'd already
performed a day's work. But when Mr. Grumman agreed,
saying, "Well, of course, if you're too tired to fly " Connie
turned on his booted heel and walked back toward me. He
was swinging two parachutes by their harnesses. He tossed
one in my direction.
As I splintered my fingernails on the heavy and unfamiliar
buckles, he said to me, "Don't forget to scream/'
I gaped. He went on, "When your eyes black out, it'll be
from the G. Give your gut a break. Scream, so it'll tighten
up. And there's one thing you ought to know about this
aircraft. With that second seat cut in, it doesn't handle like
the service model. What I'm saying is I can't get it out of a
spin. So if it ever falls into a spin are you listening? if it
falls into a spin, you jump quick.
"Don't hold up for anybody to tell you to jump. Just go.
'Cause I'm telling you now, I am not waiting forany damn
dame. Is that clear?"
Oh, how could I ever have thought him less than formid-
able? I said, "Yes, Mr. Converse," in my smallest voice and
began to climb awkwardly into the rear cockpit of the Scar-
let Woman. Connie vaulted onto the lower wing and did
not even trust me to fasten my own safety belt.
I had overheard Mr. Grumman say there was no thrill like
a tactical take-off in one of his fighter planes. It was designed
to take to the air from the short length of a carrier deck or
catapult run. From a dead stop on the edge of the field, the
Woman came alive in the time it took to draw a single
breath. We didn't really take off. At Connie's will, we clawed
into the air and the field fell away to nothingness behind us.
46 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I'm sorry for today's children who take their airplane rides
In pressurized cabins where you can breathe easily and talk
without raising your voice. In the old open cockpit, the
slipstream and the engine enfolded you with noise beyond
imagining, and the only reality your eyes told you existed
was the wings of the craft you rode.
Weary Connie's first concern aloft was not with the poetry
of motion. He wanted to find out if I did in fact know any-
thing about airplanes. He began to staff the plane over and
over, pulling her up and letting her lurch toward a spin,
then catching the spin with a quick rudder kick as the nose
whipped down. His theory was that, if I really understood
stunting, I would be frightened by the fact that we were
time and again only a split second from having to jump.
He was partly right. I knew what he was doing. But I
knew also that he was a crack Navy pilot. Why, he'd had the
same training as Admiral ByrdI I was willing to trust his
This settled the issue in Converse's mind. Anybody dumb
enough not to get shook by near-spins in an airplane that
couldn't be pulled out of a spin certainly didn't know beans
about airplanes. There was no need to put himself through
another power dive and high-G pull-out.
He climbed to about six thousand feet, pointed the nose
gently toward the earth, slid down at a steep angle for half
a minute and then leveled the wings. The dame could write
about that and it would sound just as accurate as what she'd
probably write about the real thing. He repeated the ma-
neuver in case I'd missed anything the first time. Then he
was ready to go home and gallantly he turned around in the
cockpit to shout at me, "Are you all right? Everything
I understood only that the maneuver we'd just done was
all the airplane ride I was going to get, and I knew I couldn't
No More Mail 47
make a story out of It that Mr. Grumman or anyone else
would want to read. But I was stymied at how to communi-
cate my disappointment to Connie. Meaning simply what-
you-just-did-isn't-good-enough, I set my thumb at the base of
my nose and waggled my fingers.
My message was not the one Converse understood. He
considered he was being needled, that a woman was offering
moral insult to either his flying ability or his aircraft. It
didn't matter which. None of his training in combatant
response went to waste in that moment. He charged up to
twelve thousand feet, slammed the Woman into a straight-
down power dive, hit terminal velocity almost at once and
held it till he had to pull out at nine full G.
There was enough sensation for any writer.
In the dive, the sheer roar of wind and engine was the
loudest noise in the history of the world. I measured our
speed not as the earth went by but as it grew larger before
my eyes. The airport successively was a postage stamp, a
handkerchief, a table top, a lawn, a flying field, all the uni-
verse existent and too close!
I knew we couldn't pull out any more I could see the
propeller blade of Captain Orta's shattered Hawk.
But I wasn't dead. Ahead of us caine a flash of light from
the horizon, not only the darkness of earth. Then, as the
pressure drove the blood from my eyes, it all turned black
and I could feel the other effects of the terrifying G. The
flesh on my cheeks pulled into dewlaps, my calves were
stretched like rubber toward my heels, I could not move a
muscle of my arms and legs. Finally I remembered to scream
but what I screamed or if I made a sound I could not tell.
Then the plane was straight and level as if it had always
been that way. Connie looked around again. "Was that bet-
ter? " he shouted*
48 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I raised my hands over my head it felt so good to lift
them! and shook them.
When we had landed and Connie at last cut the engine in
front of the hangar, the silence was shocking. I realized I
was much too weary to climb out of the airplane.
Himself not quite steady, Connie climbed from his seat
to the wing. He started wordlessly to lift me bodily to my
feet. I found I could stand after all.
I let the parachute fall off me onto the concrete apron
and decided to make the great effort involved in speaking
two words. Thank you. I heard my voice say them and then
blindly started home. I know I made it but I don't remem-
If anyone wants the clinical details of an overdose of G,
I'll be happy to spare them finding out the hard way. The
symptom is monumental weariness lasting from Sunday
evening until Wednesday noon. By then I had the strength
to hurl my $3.98 girdle into the wastebasket and compose
myself to write.
I began with a mental note in big letters to myself:
RE NAVY PILOTS DO NOT I SAY AGAIN
NOT NEEDLE IN FLIGHT
Then I settled down and drafted my story.
I don't remember that I ever went to another Sunday air
show as a spectator. It was about this time, anyway, that I
began to have a regular Sunday date with the George Wash-
ington Bridge. I walked along each of its sides in sunlight,
darkness, rain, snow and fog. From a rented launch, I peered
upwards into its vast intricacies and from a sputtering rented
plane I gazed down at the round gray arches lifting from
My date was a collective one, really, with the bridge, a
No More Mail 49
camera, five other aspiring students of photography and a
once-a-week teacher: Tony Chapelle, who directed the mak-
ing of TWA's publicity pictures.
Tony had been one of the first Navy photographers in
World War I. That made him (when you are nineteen you
stop to figure these things out) at least forty! He was not as
tall as he seemed; authority gave him height to me. He was
chunky, with a lot of brown hair and a dark mustache and
large animated brown eyes. He moved fast for such a broad
man and spoke in a deep melodious voice. He had the most
cheerful disposition of anyone I had ever known except
when he was initiating tyros into the mysteries of the one
matter on earth he held utterly sacred, photography.
I was awe-struck by Tony in this drill instructor role.
Fearful of his Homeric wrath, I learned my lessons bone-
deep as quickly as I could. And I don't think I've ever
forgotten any of them.
Tony made a sharp distinction between photographers
and reporters in the lensmen's favor, of course. "You have
to be able to write, too, so you can do captions. But the
picture is your reason for being. It doesn't matter what
you've seen with your eyes. If you can't prove it happened
with a picture, it didn't happen."
Tony taught us how to use the heavy Speed Graphic, the
camera newspapermen still carry in the movies. It is so big
that snap-shooting, or making a picture casually, can't be
done with it. You have to plan the picture in your mind's
eye and move to the vantage point from which to shoot be-
fore you raise the camera. This was the most important
habit Tony wanted us to learn.
But there were others. If you were a real photographer,
you kept your equipment ready to shoot. Anywhere on earth
at any time, you reloaded with fresh film and labeled and
stored the exposed supply before you went to sleep. First
50 What's A Woman Doing Heref
thing the next morning was always too late, according to
Tony. (Even today, I don't try to sleep till my camera cases
are in order.)
If you were a real photographer, you were on the spot
where things happened beforehand. You did not walk to
airplane crashes, Tony told me scornfully, recalling my story
of Captain Orta's death. "You're sitting on the fire truck
before the airplane hits and nobody takes time to throw you
off so you get out there ahead of the police. Ahead"
You practiced judging the intensity of light till your fin-
gers automatically went to the aperture and shutter controls
of your camera every time a cloud came across the face of
the sun. You practiced judging distance until you unthink-
ingly rolled your focusing knob if someone walked across
the room. And you practiced guessing the speed of a passing
object so you could stop its motion in a picture of course,
our "objects" were the cars on the George Washington
Bridge till you set your shutter at the right speed from the
sound, not the sight. In short, you became a picture-making
machine, and could give all your conscious effort to deciding
what was worth recording on film.
If a picture was a failure, no alibi would placate Tony.
If your equipment failed, it was because you hadn't taken
proper care of it. If you weren't in the right position to
shoot, it was because you were too lazy to have climbed up
where you should have been. And if your nerve failed but
then, I'd been a photographer ten years myself before I ever
heard one admit he'd been too shaken to shoot. Joe Rosen-
thai said it happened to him during the battle of the Phil-
ippine Sea. To make up for his lapse, he went on to shoot
the most famous news photograph in history, the flag rais-
ing on Iwo Jima.
My course in picture-taking did not end the first time I
produced an acceptable picture of the George Washington
No More Mail 51
Bridge. In October of 1 940, the teacher and I went out to
Milwaukee, and in front of a bank of gladiolas from my
mother's garden, we were married.
Dad's relief to see me married to a professional man (that
is, not a stunt flier) was touching, and Tony's warmth for
the members of my family including Bob at the exasperat-
ing age of fourteenwon my mother.
Our Canadian honeymoon was a busman's holiday, really,
since we covered for the Scripps-Howard newspaper the
story of U.S. fliers volunteering to fight the Nazis as members
of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Then we came back to
New York. Our first home was a hotel suite with a kitchen-
ette big enough to serve as our joint darkroom.
By now, I was a dedicated photographer. My career would
be telling stories by pictures alone. I left TWA. Neither
Ltfe, Look nor any of the half-dozen picture magazines I
went to were impressed. 1 learned that I couldn't expect an
assignment from any one of them. But this did not faze
Tony. "Make a sample story/' he said. "They'll bite."
Out at the Brewster aircraft plant in Newark, New Jersey,
Margie Alsvary sewed the fabric onto the wings of RAF
fighter planes on their way to be flown in the battle of Brit-
ain. Each working day for three weeks, I went across the
Hudson to the Brewster plant trying to make a set of pictures
which would show her life throughout every hour of one
day. Each night Tony and I would process the pictures and
decide the set was still incomplete if you counted only the
But the day finally came when even Tony admitted the set
was as good as I could make it. I took it to Look and they
bought it! I saw my first story in print, a big pix-page layout.
For the next six months, I tried to repeat my triumph. I pho-
tographed aviation events, bicycle racers, a tomato-and-let-
tuce sandwich sequence for a drug company. Occasionally I
52 What's A Woman Doing Here?
sold a picture usually a single print to a newspaper. At last
Look bought two layouts in a single day, one showing a Ca-
nadian pilot's holiday in New York and the other a series of
photographs showing Alma Heflin at work.
The winter of 1941 was upon us now and Pearl Harbor
struck. Tony at once volunteered himself back into Navy
uniform and sailed from a Hudson River pier in an icy
January dawn. He had been ordered to duty at the Coco
Solo Naval Air Station in Panama.
I couldn't go to the Caribbean as a Navy wife, all service
wives having been evacuated months before. But could I go
as a news photographer? For example, representing Look?
The magazine was agreeable. But I learned that government
recognition of my status had to come from the War Depart-
The director of its Bureau of Public Relations, Colonel
Ernest R. Dupuy, sent for me after Look had applied for
my credentials. No interview in my life has ever been re-
hearsedfrom my sidelike this one. By the time I took
the bus that hot day in May for my first visit to Washing-
ton, I am sure I had ready answers to questions that haven't
occurred to either the colonel or me since.
It developed that Colonel Dupuy had only one question.
"I see that recognition has been applied for you in part so
you may photograph the training of the Fourteenth Infantry
Regiment in the jungles of Panama. I presume you realize,
Mrs. Chapelle, that troops in the field have no facilities for
The classic military semantics the I-presume-you-realize
wording was never more just. I'd not only failed to realize
it; I'd never given it a minute's thought. I had no answer
ready and stood dumb. Frantically my mind went to what
I knew of the what was it again? Fourteenth Infantry?
No More Mail 53
"Colonel," I said earnestly, "I'm sure the Fourteenth In-
fantry has solved much tougher problems than that, and
and they'll probably think of a way to lick this one, too/'
The colonel regarded me impassively, then picked up a
sheaf of papers in a bent clip and began writing his name
near the bottom. They were my papers. Even upside down
I could see that.
Out of panic had come the right answer! It probably was
the only right one. And one which I was to make to the same
kind of question most of my life to armies on five continents.
But then I gleefully knew only that I was on my way to
Through the June heat, the squat unlovely lines of the
United Fruit freighter, S.S. Santa Marta, shimmered along-
side her cluttered dock in New Orleans harbor.
Joyously I watched from the lounge of the United Fruit
Company's dockside offices the great crates of food swinging
up as she loaded. I was to be a passenger the only fare-pay-
ing one on her next run to Panama. Sailing aboard too
would be a handful of young naval officers and a dozen con-
struction workers enroute for duty there.
Like most Americans, none of us had any idea how close
the submarines were to winning the war for Germany. To
mislead the Nazis, only a fraction of the sinkings were pub-
licly admitted. So we all thought the tired passenger agent
was lending a theatrical note to our projected tropical cruise
as he briefed us.
"When the torpedo hits," he said, "all you have to worry
about is concussion. If you're topside and take cover till the
flying metal settles, you won't get hurt. Remember, the holds
in the Marta are refrigerated, which means they're sealed so
she won't sink fast. You'll probably be able to walk into the
lifeboats carrying your luggage."
54 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The cloak-and-dagger atmosphere thickened. A car moved
our luggage to the pier in the middle of the night. A coded
phone call told us when to leave the hotel.
But the security precautions weren't perfect. There was
time, after I knew when we were to leave, to wire Tony. He
had told me a code phrase which he intended to cable if he
were to be ordered out of Panama. It was NO MORE MAIL.
So my message to him read NO MORE MAIL LOVE DICKEY.
With the New Orleans point of origin, he couldn't fail to
guess that I was on my way to him at last. Then I took a cab
to the ship, telling my destination to the driver only as the
number of the pier. "Sailing on the old Marta, are you?" he
said genially. "Well, now, she'll be away before morning."
He was right, of course. At dawn, when I took the camera
on deck the last of the Louisiana bayous were slipping by
the rail. The ship's flag whipped in the wind. If I could pose
the Maria's gun crew at its base, I'd have a fine picture. I
photographed it half a dozen times anyway, flinging the
black pieces of paper from my film pack over the side with
Then I was puzzled. I remembered the many official Navy
statements in the newspapers that there were no more un-
armed American freighters. Each ship now carried a gun and
the sailors to man it, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox had
been quoted as saying. I'd been strolling around the ship,
stumbling over chains and leaning on piles of rope. But I
couldn't even see a gun. But then, maybe I wasn't very nauti-
cal. On which end of a boat did you find a gun, anyhow?
I shortly found something more curious to watch. On a
level higher than the big deck beneath me, a broad balding
man in rumpled pink pajamas was shouting something in a
blind temper. Apparently, he was addressing somebody be-
hind me. I looked around but I couldn't see anyone.
A slim officer materialized in front of me with PURSER on
No More Mail 55
his uniform cap. He began, "Do you know who that Is?*'
gesturing toward the man in pink pajamas.
"Why, no. Who is it?" I answered.
"That is Captain Spencer. He's been trying to get your
your attention for the last ten minutes."
The significance of the word captain escaped me com-
pletely. I said, "Why?"
"Because," said the purser, his manner weighted with all
the naval tradition since Sir Francis Drake, "this is his ship
you're on and he just ordered you to stay off the main deck
till we get out to sea."
It was the first military order that had ever been addressed
to me and I reacted like any other human being to this crisis.
I said, "Why?"
The purser drew me into a corridor out of sight of the
captain and tethered himself with an air of sweet reason.
"Because the agent said we were to get you to Panama in
one piece. Because if you stand on an anchor chain when
it lets go you will lose both legs. Because if you get tangled
up with the line you'll be burned. Because if you fall into
a hatch you'll land on your head. Because if you don't stop
throwing pieces of paper overboard so the U-boats can track
them we'll all be sunk."
I had the grace to say, "Oh."
Then I remembered my professional mission aboard.
Meekly I said, "The only reason I'm on this ship is because
Look wants pictures of the gun grews and the convoy pro-
tecting us from German U-boats. The Navy Department in
Washington picked the Marta for me. Can you tell me where
the gunners are?"
The purser looked puzzled. But all he said was, "There's
never been a gun crew on this ship."
I thought about that for a minute in silence. "When do
we rendez-vous with the convoy?" I asked. I was pretty proud
56 What's A Woman Doing Here?
that I'd remembered the right term for meeting the other
"Convoy?" said the purser, as if I should explain the term
to him. "We don't rendez-vous with any convoy. This ship
never has sailed in a convoy and we're not beginning now."
On our fourth day out, while I was sitting behind my
typewriter in my cabin still puzzled about what I could be
doing aboard for the readers of Look, I heard high-voiced
shouts and heavy footsteps. I grabbed my camera and life-
belt, and ran out on deck. An upended stovepipe trailing a
white wake was moving alongside of us.
We were running square in the sights of a submarine's
periscope in a part of the sea where there were no submarines
on our side of the war. Our top speed was a dozen knots
also the top speed of any German U-boat, submerged. So
all we could about a torpedo was to admire the artistic
wake it made on its way to blow us out of the water.
But minutes passed, and it did not come. In the end every-
one concluded that the Maria had been paid the ultimate
insult. Some U-boat skipper, after a leisurely look, didn't
think she was worth the expending of a torpedo.
Earlier in the day, we had seen Navy patrol planes, huge
amphibious flying boats, several times. Now the First Mate
offered a theory to save the ship's face. "We've had a lot
more air cover on this run than before. Maybe that sub
somehow got scared off by something we didn't notice.'*
Six days' more sailing brought us close to our destination.
Now Navy patrol planes often were overhead. At last we
tied up at the Colon docks on the Atlantic side of the Canal
Zone. But my longed-for reunion with my husband was a
The first person to come aboard was an erect lieutenant
No More Mail 57
who made a bee-line for me, waving a fistful of papers, and
thrust one under my nose.
"Did you send this?" It was my wire to Tony reading NO
"I sure did. Did my husband get it?"
"Did your husband get it!" he snorted. "Come with me"
and in my first moment as a recognized correspondent in a
theatre of war, I was arrested by Naval Intelligence.
They studied all my documents and talked vaguely about
releasing me in an hour or so. I was puzzled. I asked what I
had said in the wire which could have given away the ship's
sailing time to an enemy agent.
"It isn't what the wire could have told the enemy," was the
answer. "But do you realize what it did tell your husband's
buddies? They've been volunteering to fly extra missions
every day and night for two solid weeks to herd that ship of
yours into this harbor. And he with them. Now that you're
here, maybe we can put the whole patrol wing back on some
kind of normal military operation! "
The house Tony and I lived in was a tiny pink stucco
bungalow with a high, red-tile, wide-eaved roof and large
windows barred with black ornamental wrought iron.
Tony's mission at Coco Solo was the training of 27 young
sailors to become aerial cameramen. (Three were killed in
action during the war and seven wounded.) I simply reverted
to my old status as one of Tony's students, a Janie-come-
lately addition to his Navy crew. Our home, of course, was
their off-duty base.
On my own, I followed a typical correspondents' overseas
routine. I had two jobs, covering the entire Canal Zone for
Look, and reporting from the town of Colon for one of the
local daily newspapers, The Panama American. Each morning
in the cool dawn, I made the rounds for the paper of the
58 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Panamanian mayor's office, the town pokey, the Army and
Navy public information offices and the Military Police head-
quarters. Usually I worked on my magazine stories in the
afternoons and spent many of the evenings helping Tony
cook enough spaghetti for twenty-seven sailors on a two-
burner kerosene stove, or helping the young men to mount,
frame, retouch and talk about their prize pictures.
I had come to Panama a pretty cocky girl at twenty-three,
wasn't I an overseas contributor to one of the country's big
magazines? But my euphoria had not lasted. The only part
of the war going on around me was the terrible struggle
against Nazis U-boats and hardly a line of that story would
escape the censor's blue pencil until the world was at peace
I remembered my assignment to the infantry, whose do-
ings I hoped would not need to be kept secret. I packed my
cameras and made my first call at the headquarters of the
The unit was nicknamed The Bushmasters after the
deadly snake that scourged the jungle, and was commanded
by a courtly colonel. On the general question of a picture-
story about them, we started even. They hadn't been cov-
ered by any photographer and I hadn't photographed any
troops. We discovered from the first day that we had a com-
mon enemy, too, the regiment and I. It had nothing to do
with the Germans or the Japanese; it was the jungle itself.
At noon, with the sun's touch white-hot, there wasn't
enough light filtering through the leaves to enable me to
make a clear picture. The vegetation grew here as nowhere
else on earth because the area received the heaviest rainfall.
It had been chosen as the site for the Bushmasters' training
since any Pacific jungle would be easy to conquer after they'd
No More Mail 59
"We'll deploy on the beach tomorrow," the colonel told
me, "and you'll have more light than you can use."
After I found out deploy just meant they'd be there, I
arranged to come back. The unit looked somehow different
than it had before. It wasn't just the sunlight, either. But
the pictures I was making of their exercise didn't even re-
mind me of the ones I'd seen in print from the assault on
Guadalcanal (which was still going on). And then it struck
me. The colonel had decided his outfit should appear regula-
tion if it were going to have its picture taken in full daylight.
All the men were wearing starched fatigues with razor-edge
creases. They were freshly-shaven. Their leather was pol-
ished, their rifle stocks rubbed, their weapon barrels oiled.
Unless everybody crawled a couple hundred yards on his
stomach through the nearest swamp, we might just as well
be making the pictures back at Fort Dix. I recoiled from
my own idea, and thought I saw an alternative.
"Colonel," I began tentatively, "would you mind asking
the men to take off their shirts?"
"Why, no," the colonel replied. "Lieutenant, have that
platoon strip to the waist/'
None of us in the instant saw anything funny about the
command. But the troops were not so dull-witted. The next
morning when I arrived at their bivouac, I was greeted gaily
by the shouting of sergeants. "Here she comes! Strip, men-
to the waist!" I worked with the Bushmasters for almost a
year and never did live it down.
My next basic training had to do with artillery. The regi-
ment just had been furnished with a field piece more mobile
than the earlier model, and the men were gathered around
the gun. The only place they had left open was directly to
one side of the muzzle. Flinching from all those elbows and
shoulders through which I'd have to push to be at the breech,
I stationed myself in the open spot to photograph the gun
60 What's A Woman Doing Here?
as it was fired. I found out why nobody wanted to stand
there. The muzzle blast knocked me flat on my green slacks.
Night-firing practice came next. The trick was to set the
camera on a firm support and open the shutter at the com-
mand to fire, closing it only after the shooting was done. We
wasted a fair amount of government ammunition from the
larger weapons proving that the battery had splendid re-
flexes and I didn't have any at all. Finally the colonel took
"Give me the shutter control/' he said crisply. "You give
the firing commands." That's the way we did it and the pic-
tures were fine,
I think I might have continued to do my two jobs in
Colon for the duration if I hadn't shot the Secretary of the
Navy. In the spring of 1943, Mr. Knox came to make an
inspection of naval strength in the Canal Zone.
Naval Intelligence arranged for me to photograph the
Secretary at a reception in the Officers Club. Several of
Tony's young photographers also were there to do the of-
ficial pictures, and one of them photographed me as I was
raising my Graphic to photograph Mr. Knox. In the picture,
he is studying me with a v puzzled air. It's too bad my fellow-
lensman didn't wait a split second longer to make his expo-
sure. For just about then, the flashbulb on my camera
malfunctioned. It exploded, sounding just like a pistol shot.
It was easy to tell who in the room were the secret service
men. They grabbed at their hips and shoulders for the side-
arms under their jackets. Then came a long instant of
complete quiet while they tried to decide who was firing at
the Secretary of the Navy. Into the silence I said in the
smallest possible voice, "I'm sorry, sir."
The following day, Tony's commanding officer and he
held a curious but inevitable colloquy. My exploding bulb
had called the highest official attention to the fact that there
No More Mail 61
was a Navy wife in a war theatre from which Navy wives
had long since been sent home. The pronouncement was that
we could not stay together. My husband would have to tell
me to return to the States.
Tony shook his head. "My wife doesn't take her orders
from me. Her orders come from the War Department in
The commander pondered a minute.
"Well, she can't be where you are. I'm not empowered to
countermand orders from Washington. But there's nothing
to keep me from ordering you transferred out of wherever
she is, is there?"
There wasn't. I came home that evening from the Bush-
master maneuver area to find the little pink stucco bunga-
low very quiet. On the table lay a note in Tony's firm square
printing. It said NO MORE MAIL.
4. On to Iwo Jima
AFTER MY RETURN from Panama in 1943, I worked on two
editions of Aviation Annual (Doubleday Doran) and wrote
about eight books on aviation.
On Easter of 1944, Tony was told that the government
wanted him to begin preparations to set up photographic
centers in Asia for propaganda purposes. So he would be out
of uniform and working from the Army Pictorial Center
on Long Island. In the middle of the war, we'd be able to
have an apartment together in New York!
The one we found was on Riverside Drive with a wide
view of the Hudson River. Here I tried to be a housewife
againa housewife plus a writer of two thousand words a
day. This routine went on for almost a year and scarred me
for life. To turn out those eight pages every day involved
discipline, probably the first I'd ever faced. Years later, when
I hesitated about walking across the Iron Curtain or jumping
out of an airplane in flight, I could still move myself off dead
center by saying, sometimes out loud, "Well, it's better than
writing two thousand words a day, isn't it?'*
Just before Christmas of 1944, Tony's project suddenly
was ordered forward. He was to go to Chungking. He had
been administered his innoculations, measured for his Office
On to Iwo Jima 63
of War Information uniforms and was standing by to hear
the date of his departure.
I didn't know what I was going to do while he was gone
this time. But I was pretty sure it wouldn't be writing two
thousand words a day while gazing across the Hudson to-
I decided to ask for a magazine assignment to the theatre
of war adjoining Tony's. This was under the command of
the U.S. Pacific Fleet. We were sure it would take a long time
to get recognition from Washington, probably ninety days.
It had taken me even longer than that to set up the trip to
Ten days later, Tony faced what must surely be the most
awkward moment in a husband's life. His own orders in-
explicably delayed, he had to say good-bye to his wife while
she went off to war.
The lightning bolt which had catapulted me out couldn't
even be called luck. It was just a matter of timing. I'd started
by calling at a magazine chain which had printed many of
my pictures and stories about women in unusual war jobs,
Fawcett Publications. Two of their magazines were Woman's
Day and Popular Mechanics. Its managing editor was fiery,
short-spoken Ralph Daigh. I had no reason to be really hope-
ful when I came into his office. I began by saying I wanted to
cover what women were doing in the Pacific "and anything
else that happens while I'm out there"
He didn't let me finish. "We need somebody out there
right now. Go ahead. Just be sure you're first someplace."
Fawcett's application for my recognition by the Govern-
ment ground through the machinery in Washington in an
incredible forty-eight hours. There was a clearing-house for
reporters 1 accreditation now, functioning like a well-oiled
Enroute to the Pacific, I was ordered to join a tour for a
64 What's A Woman Doing Here?
dozen other women writers visiting naval air stations in the
United States. It was to leave by plane from Floyd Bennett
Field in Brooklyn at the end of the week in which my re-
quest had been filed.
This accreditation business is of the greatest importance
in wartime to a reporter or a photographer (or a reporter-
photographer as I was). It's not enlistment. The correspond-
ent goes right on being paid by his publication. But the
service Army, Navy, Air Forceagrees to see that the cor-
respondent is housed, fed, uniformed, transported and shown
whatever is necessary. The services give this cooperation so
the correspondent will at least be able to write stories useful
to the prosecution of the war as well as satisfactory to his
In return for adopting him or her, the military forces ask
one commitment from the correspondent. The reporter
agrees in writing to take orders. The custom is to treat a
correspondent as a kind of junior officer, calling the status
he doesn't legally have a simulated rank. In 1945, we were
simulated captains in the Army and lieutenant commanders
in the Navy.
My orders said I would "report aboard" at 44th Street and
Fifth Avenue for transportation to the Pacific Fleet at 0800
on 20 January. This was eight o'clock in the morning. Ready
for boarding at the designated spot I found a highly polished
blue station wagon with an impatient young sailor-driver.
Standing in the icy street under billowing snow clouds,
Tony and I said our farewells. I felt guilty as the dickens,
"Now, let me see, Mrs. Chapelle," the lieutenant began,
riffling the papers in his IN basket, "are you a writer or a pho-
tographer?" We were sitting in his office on the Naval Air
Station at Oakland, California, on an icy Februray morning
On to Two Jima 65
and I probably had my head cocked a little to one side as
I studied him. He was the first government correspondents'
aide I'd ever met, a lieutenant junior grade whose job was
liaison from the Navy to the press.
I told him I'd be working as both reporter and photog-
rapher, since my magazines had no one else in the area.
"You can't be both," he told me firmly. "On operations,
you may use radio facilities if you are a writer, or your
camera if you are a photographer. But only one/'
I didn't understand what he meant by "on operations." I
was pretty sure the term in wartime usually meant "in com-
bat." But certainly the Navy would never consent to a
woman observer where there was any shooting! I wasn't wil-
ling, though, to ask the lieutenant any silly questions as long
as he was taking my professional role so seriously. So I just
looked thoughtful and asked, "How many accredited women
writers has the Navy sent out from San Francisco?"
"A couple, I guess."
"And how many accredited woman photographers?"
"Never heard of one."
That settled it. Now anything I did, including breathing,
west of where I sat was a scoop of some kind. "I'm a pho-
"Very well. And just where was it you wanted to go?"
Now I really was surprised. I thought he'd tell me where
I was permitted to go. Did he honestly mean I had a choice?
Very well, I'd make one. I'd tell the truth.
"As far forward as you'll let me."
Once I'd said it, I was delighted with the way the sentence
rang and echoed, like a bell. I expected it would get me to
Honolulu, anyway. I knew this was the most advanced sta-
tion for WACS and WAVES.
The next day, my guess proved right. With a score of Navy
flight nurses just out of training, I took off at six o'clock in
66 What's A Woman Doing Here?
the morning aboard the largest plane built up to that time,
the Martin Mars. She was going to Pearl Harbor.
While we were still in the air, I heard the words Iwo Jima
for the first time. The co-pilot climbed back from the cock-
pit Into the compartment where we sat amid the plane's
load of freight and told us the Marines had landed on the
little island. He had to shout but he spelled Iwo Jima for
us. Then he said the landing was not going well "It's worse
In a few minutes, the rainbow shoals of Oahu, overlaid
with the pearl light of dawn, were sliding beneath us. An
hour later, I stood before a racketing teletype in the press
room at Navy headquarters. The co-pilot had been correct.
It was worse than Tarawa.
Every reporter, editor, public relations officer and cor-
respondents' aide in the building sat before the teletype
hour after hour. If we were riveted there at first by some-
thing professional, by four o'clock the next morning it had
become something morbid. The reports never stopped com-
ing and there was not one that did not tell of fresh disaster.
Whole outfits were being committed, macerated, decimated,
Somebody said hoarsely that the Corps couldn't take that
kind of losses. I nudged an ensign next to me and asked,
"Marine Corps. Maybe there won't be any more Corps
Like all tyro correspondents in the face of their first bad
news, I thought at once of the blackest catastrophe. Could
could the United States be losing the war?
I was certain of one conclusion. No matter what stories Fd
come out to cover, no matter what any editor in New York
had thought I ought to do, I didn't have to be concerned
about it now. There was in all the world at this moment
On to Iwo Jima 67
only one story. Just one. Men killing and dying, real men,
now, in this instant, on Iwo Jima.
So when a correspondents' aide asked me where I wanted
to go, I made the only reply I could imagine a correspondent
making. "As far forward as you'll let me."
I shortly received orders which I was told were similar
to those of the nurses with whom I'd been traveling. They
directed us to Guam. This marked the first break-through
of American women in the armed forces to a post of duty
forward of Honolulu, and I thought wistfully that our going
on to Guam would have been news if there had not been
just one story in the whole area.
At Guam the news from Iwo Jima was no different.
But here, the teleprinter in the correspondents' workroom
was a magnet for only a handful of men. They were the re-
write experts of the press associations who had stayed behind
to relay the dispatches from their colleagues at the front,
now only a few hundred miles away. The teletype was linked
directly to the communications ship of the assault fleet, the
OFFSHORE AT IWO JIMA (DELAYED ONE HOUR IN TRANSIT)
THE MORNING OF D DAY PLUS THREE HAS COME HERE FOR THE
MEN ALIVE TO SEE IT. BUT INCOMPLETE CASUALITY REPORTS IN-
DICATE THAT FOR ONE OUT OF TEN AMERICANS WHO CHARGED
ASHORE HERE THERE HAS BEEN NO SUNRISE. THEY DID NOT
SURVIVE . . .
A slight man wearing steel-rimmed spectacles grumbled,
"Poetic, isn't he, this morning? But those figures never will
pass the censor, and by God I don't think they ought to/'
WITH THE ASSAULT FORCE AT IWO JIMA IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT
UNITS OF THE THIRD FOURTH AND FIFTH MARINE DIVISIONS HAVE
BEEN COMMITTED. IT WAS SAID THIS MORNING THAT MAJOR GENERAL
GRAVES B. ERSKINE COMMANDER OF THE THIRD DIVISION DID NOT
68 What's A Woman Doing Here?
PLAN TO ORDER FURTHER RESERVES ONTO THE BITTERLY CONTESTED
LITTLE . . .
"God! He's sentenced every man already there to death!"
someone said. I'd thought press association re-write men were
supposed to be hard-boiled. But the face of this one was
white and stiff.
ABOARD THE COMMAND SHIP OF THE ASSAULT FORCE ANCHORED OFF
IWO JIMA AN UNCONFIRMED RUMOR IS SWEEPING THE SHIP THAT
THE FLAG HAS BEEN SIGHTED ON THE TOP OF THE HIGHEST POINT
OF THE SAVAGELY CONTESTED SOIL OF ...
Now the men were scornful. They said the teleprinter
operator aboard the Eldorado must be making a bad joke.
They agreed not to relay such an improbable rumor back
to their offices in the States.
The teletype began to click again.
IT HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED THAT THE FLAG OF THE
UNITED STATES NOW FLIES FROM MOUNT SURIBACHI HIGHEST POINT
OF THIS VOLCANIC ISLAND. . . .
The words galvanized the press room. Three of the men
cheered. Now that I was sure it was all right for a correspond-
ent to show emotion, I wiped my eyes with my knuckles. The
Associated Press man was not quite so obvious about it. He
just wiped his eyeglasses and turned back to his typewriter.
Then the correspondents' aide with whom I had been
ordered to work motioned me into his office. He was a lanky
redheaded lieutenant with harassed eyes, named Joe Magee,
He told me my living quarters were to be in a tent on a hill-
top a few miles away. Then, like all the aides before him,
he asked me where I wanted to go.
I still couldn't imagine a correspondent making any other
reply but "Iwo Jima." Nor could I imagine that the Navy
On to Iwo Jima 69
would let me go. Forlornly I said, "As far forward as you'll
Lieutenant Magee got up, said, "Stay here, girl/' and left
the room. When he came back, he was saying,
"You now have orders to the Samaritanthat's one of our
hospital ships on its way to Iwo Jima. You'll meet your
jeep at five o'clock tomorrow morning on the road below
your tent. The jeep will deliver you to the ship and she'll
be sailing at once. Dickey! Are you listening?"
The real measure of my astonishment was that I found
myself in the hilltop tent after sundown without having
made any arrangements to be waked up. I knew if I went to
sleep then I was good for forty-eight hours without opening
my eyes. I'd miss my jeep; I'd never hear even a horn
sounded down on the road. Would the driver come up? No.
Orders were that no male should come nearer the tent than
the Marine guard who patrolled around the base of the hill.
Maybe I could get his attention and borrow an alarm clock?
I stared out of the tent to see if I could spot him through
the trees. No. Well, I'd walk down to the guard post. And
then I remembered. Lieutenant Magee had said the Marine's
orders were to shoot anything that moved here after dark
and ask questions later, if at all. Lieutenant Magee had added
that he wouldn't miss.
Well, there was exactly one way out. For nine hours in
the dark and silence, I kpt myself awake.
The C7.S.S. Samaritan, long as a city block and towering
over her pontoon dock, was painted gleaming white with
red crosses four decks high on either side. She was one of the
half-dozen hospital ships of the Pacific Fleet in action at the
time. As she steamed to Iwo to bring back casualties from
the fighting, I underwent my baptism of fire aboard her.
In the early afternoon of the second day out, an abandon-
70 What's A Woman Doing Here?
ship drill was held on the Samaritan. Sonny, a very young
slight corpsman, his cherub face almost lost inside the frame
of his gray steel helmet, who had become my mentor told
me the drill was by the book and made sense at the time
since we were empty. But as a battle drill, it was farce; doc-
tors, nurses and corpsmen have never been known to leave
their patients for any purpose so trivial as to safeguard their
own lives. And no ship loaded with wounded can ever be
Even so, I was glad we'd had the drill. I found my action
station because of it. Sonny asked me where 1 was going if
we were called to security stations.
I said, "What's a security station?"
"On a ship that can fight, it's called a battle station. But
we don't have a gun or anything, so if we get involved in
fighting, it's just for our own safety. Where'll you go?"
"How could we ever get in any fighting?" I asked scorn-
fully. "Isn't this ship protected by the Geneva Convention?"
Sonny was sage. "It don't seem as though the captain trusts
the Geneva Convention much. I wouldn't if I was him. You
know any Japanese ever heard of it?"
I didn't know any Japanese at all but I'd been raised on
the inviolability of the Geneva Convention, the Kellogg
peace pacts and the progressive disarmament treaties. Like
my mother, I was pretty sure there'd be peace on earth if
people just wouldn't get so suspicious of each other. The
unarmed Samaritan was afloat out here, wasn't she? That
proved the Convention was more than just a piece of paper,
"Well, if anything happens, where do you want to be?"
Sonny was asking.
I abandoned the political issue uneasily. "I guess the
camera should be at the highest point so I can see in every
On to Iwo Jima 71
Sonny led me up three ladders. Then we were on a piece
of deck a dozen yards across right over the bridge. Beside
me was a huge searchlight mounted on metal legs eight or
nine inches high.
"Good thing there's room under that searchlight," Sonny
said. "You'll have real good cover up here."
"I couldn't get under there if the air was full of bullets,"
"Sure you can. You're not that fat/* insisted Sonny gravely.
"I bet you a quarter."
Before I could demonstrate my point, I was summoned
belowdecks, so Sonny and my bet remained unsettled until
That night, quartered in one of the vacant private rooms
of the sick officers' ward, I practiced for the first time a going-
to-bed routine that I was to follow for the rest of my life in
any war zone. I reloaded the camera and padded it between
extra pillows on the floor so it would have some protection
against detonation. I hung my helmet and life belt where I
could reach them and then rehearsed with my eyes closed
how to find them by feel. I lay down, loosened the web belt
of my khaki slacks, made sure my shirt wouldn't choke me
and buried my face in my arm. As I fell asleep I was tempted
to laugh at myself for all these precautions. The Samaritan
had no guns. Why was I acting as if I expected her to be
The next thing I remember, sound was vibrating the bulk-
heads and daylight pouring through the porthole. The
noise was the alarm klaxon, and it lifted me clear up and
into my shoes before I understood what I was listening to.
Then I didn't believe it. The squawk box cut in:
All hands man your security stations . . . all hands man
your security stations . . .
Throwing on my life belt and not forgetting the helmet,
72 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I hurried into the compartment on which my room opened,
the sick officers* wardroom. Half a dozen corpsmen were ly-
ing flat on their stomachs on mattresses on the floor. I recog-
"What's going on?" I asked breathlessly.
"We're being bombed." The loudspeaker broke in:
A Japanese bomber type aircraft has jiist begun a run on
this ship. I say again a Betty has just begun a run on this
ship. We are the target. All hands take cover . . . all hands
I was absolutely certain somebody had simply hooked up
the soundtrack of an old movie. I walked toward the wide
hatch that opened from the wardroom onto the main deck.
At the high doorsill, the sense of the words hit me. I froze.
Over and over my mind kept repeating, I-do-not-want-to-go-
Behind me, a seaman's voice rang young and clear in the
That was what it took. As long as one person thought I
was a photographer, I was willing to take the next step to-
ward being one. But out on deck, it got hardernot easier.
The sun was bright, the sea was bare and blue, the decks
of the ship were utterly, desolately, lacking any sign of an-
other human being.
I could see the enemy plane clearly from where I stood. It
was too far away to show in a photograph, but a black speck
now detached itself from underneath the plane and began
falling toward us, growing bigger and bigger as it came.
I heard a sigh of voices from every deck level. Not until
the bomb had splashed into the water a few hundred yards
behind us did I realize that it had been a sigh of relief.
Everyone else who could see from their security station had
known that the pilot had released too soon, and the bomb
On to Two Jima 73
would miss. I hadn't. And I surely hadn't gotten any picture.
The bomber was circling and rising now, and I ran for
the nearest ladder. I saw the whole war in that instant in
clear terms. It was a race between him and me. I had to get
up to the flying bridge before he had positioned his plane
for the next run.
I made it. And threw myself flat on my stomach on the
corrugated metal, bracing the camera with my elbows. I had
about lined up the plane in the finder when it occurred to
me what I was doing. The wire frame of the finder before
my eyes began to tremble, then to wobble
All hands ta-a-a-ke co-o-o-ver . . . All hands ta-a-ke
co-o-ver . . .
Suddenly every part of me except my helmet, hands and
camera was under the searchlight platform. It was crushing
me, mangling me. But I was covered.
From there, I tried to steady the camera again. In the
finder the plane grew big. The enemy pilot was beginning
a second run on us, and all he had to do this time was wait
a few more seconds before he toggled loose the bomb. Would
it explode near the bow or stern (where I wasn't) or 'mid-
ships (where I was)? Time spun out . . .
No bomb came. Instead I saw an orange lance in the sky
and then a ceaseless stream of them arc toward the plane. A
Navy destroyer was opening up with all her anti-aircraft
guns as she charged across the water toward us. The bomber
lurched off-course, veered and banked so the Rising Sun on
her wings was plain. She jinked again to escape the ack-ack,
climbed up and, without loosing another bomb, turned tail
By the pure chance that a destroyer heading out from Iwo
had passed us at the critical instant, we were safe.
I remember one seaman's idea of celebrating our deliver-
ance. All day he slid quietly in behind people and let his
74 What's A Woman Doing Here?
steel helmet crash on the metal deck. If this produced a
broad jump under ten feet, he said your reflexes were under
par. Mine were okay.
There was a note of shame to my celebrating, anyhow.
I had no telephoto lens, and what there'd been to photo-
graph had happened a long way off for a normal lens. I knew
what Tony would say to an alibi like that. The fact was
that I hadn't shot even the flyspeck-in-the-sky kind of picture
I should have made. In short, I'd fluffed the coverage of my
own baptism of fire. But there was one point of personal
honor to be salvaged.
I looked up Sonny and held out a twenty-five cent piece.
"You win/' I said. "I'm not that fat."
5. The U.S.S. Samaritan
THE SKY WAS CLEAR and the great rock of Suribachi tow-
ered over the pale shadows of the dawn. The anchorage at
Iwo Jima was crowded with warships. But there were only
three that mattered the great battleships. They were talk-
ing. A cloud of flame suddenly hid the nearest, the U.S.S.
Missouri. Then the flame was gone and she heeled back.
She was firing all her big guns in salvo at the dark gray bulk
of the island where it leveled in the lee of the mountain.
The shells struck and the earth boiled in dun-colored rolls
with precise edges. The rolls climbed high and dissolved into
haze as the next salvo struck beneath them.
I saw a man die then, an American flier. He was a Marine
aviator going in from a carrier to help a pocket of men
trapped near the mountain. He didn't pull up in time, and
when his plane shattered an entire wing was flung almost as
high as Suribachi's crest.
Dark little boats like beetles driven by treads churning at
their sides were coming out from the shore. They came not
in waves but lonely and separate. From the flying bridge of
the Samaritan, I could see that the inclined bow of the near-
est was misshapen; three stretchers were lashed across the
bow, and they were not empty. In the innards of the amphib-
76 What's A Woman Doing Here?
ious tractor were other stretchers, each burdened, too. The
wounded were on their way to us.
I went slowly down the long ladders, my palms wet, to the
after welldeck where the stretchers would be lifted aboard.
I still don't understand why lookers-on of battle try to use
words to tell what they've seen. Or why I do. You don't re-
member the things of war with the part of your being that
forms and chooses words. It's not that the brain forgets. Mine
remembers that during the daylight hours of D Day plus 6
and D Day plus 7, the U.S.S. Samaritan took aboard 551 criti-
cally wounded Marines, a hundred more than the ship had
been built to carry.
But it's my stomach that remembers how the ship smelled.
It still could tell the difference between the orthopedic wards
aboard where there always was plaster dust in the air from
the fresh casts, and one of the wards for abdominal injuries,
where the smell was of decomposing flesh.
And it's my ears that remember the ceaseless surge of small
boat engines beside us as they delivered up their loads. They
still know an am track from an LCVP, the small Higgins
boat with the ramp for a bow. They know the human noises
masked by that sound, the curses and commands and breath-
ing of the seamen carrying stretchers hour after hour. And
how people sound when they are hurting terribly.
It's my feet that remember the blood. A pool of blood was
something a man left behind him on the deck like his gun
and his pack. The important thing about the blood was that
it was slippery under your feet, and you had to be careful
if you were standing in it not to fall down when the ship
None of these impressions, though, is as unfading as what
the heart remembers. This is the eternal, incredible, appall-
ing, macabre, irreverent, joyous gestures of love for life, the
fact of life, made by the wounded.
The U.S.S. Samaritan 77
When I first began to work on the welldeck, I tried only to
keep out of the way of the stretcher-bearers and to keep on
focusing, framing, lighting and shooting pictures. The
shapeless dirty bloody green bundles being lifted and car-
ried before me were not repeat not human as I was human.
Some part of my mind warned me that if I thought of them
as people, just once, I'd be unable to take any more pictures.
Then the story of their anguish would never be told since
there was no one else here to tell it.
A corporal named Martin from Scranton destroyed that
defense in two minutes flat. He wasn't only shapeless and
bloody and foam-lipped; he was dying when he reached the
hospital ship. The first corpsman who saw him began trans-
fusing whole blood into his veins a few yards from the spot
where he had been lifted aboard.
Because his was the only stretcher not likely to be moved
for a few minutes, I squatted beside it to change the film in
my camera. I hadn't looked at the face of any hurting man
except through the finder of the camera yet. Now, shyly,
without the square of wire between us, I looked at his. His
eyes had opened and rested on the white pipes overhead. The
cardboard tag reading URGENT, which had been tied to his
top dungaree button ashore, obscured his chin and lay across
his lips. I reached over and folded it back so it wouldn't
impede his breathing. God, he doesn't want to die!
He saw me now and the deep lines in his face changed.
He was trying to smile!
I thought I had to say something. "Uh soldier how are
He never heard the second part of it because the warship
next to us was firing again. But he had heard the first, dis-
tinctly. When the thunder of the salvo died away, he said
carefully, syllable by syllable,
"Ma-rine. I'm a fuck-ing Ma-rine."
78 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I thought, I bet he would try to smile again if / said that.
I never had But it was important that he smile again since
he had started to once. Thunder from the battleship rolled
over us again. Go ahead, say it!
"Okay, you fuck-ing Ma-rine, I asked you how you felt/'
He didn't just try to smile. He made it.
I looked up at the blood bottle hanging over his arm and
back at what was left of his legs and then to his face with the
big M on the forehead which meant he had been injected
with morphine. What in the name of all that was holy did
he have to feel lucky about?
"Because Fm here. Offthe beach."
I still didn't say anything. I knew he ought not to waste
his strength talking even though the transfusion was reviv-
ing him. But he went on.
"There'sanother thing. I I always knew the guys in the
squad liked me, see?" He stopped now because something
hurt But then his face was controlled again, and he picked
up smoothly. "But I never knew the guys cared enough to
get me the hell out of there. When I got it they did. Three
miles they carried me. Makes a guy feel lucky." He posi-
tively grinned now as if he saw them on deck with us and he
wanted them to know he had come through to safety.
Sonny and two other bearers picked up his stretcher then,
one of them holding the blood bottle in the air so the trans-
fusion would go on. I watched carefully where they went.
A part of the deck was for the stretchers of the men who
had died in the boats on their way to us. Time and again, I
would hear the doctor, his face stiff, hoarsely tell a boat crew
that one of their casualties had reached us too late. "Take
him back, cox'n. We only have space for the living." Often
the boat crew refused to believe the doctor. "He isn't dead,
Doc," they would insist, standing stubbornly before him.
The U.S.S. Samaritan 79
"You can save him." At last the doctor would simply wave
them away to the far rail, the space reserved for the dead.
Later the bodies would be carried back to the beach on boats
other than the ones which had carried the men out to us,
The men carrying Martin's stretcher did not stop at the
place of the dead. He was being carried down a corridor lead-
ing to one of the wards.
After that, I looked squarely at each Marine as I photo-
graphed him. As the hours passed, I learned that the one
thing almost every man who could talk said was just what
Martin had said.
I'm lucky. I am alive. I am here.
I remember the exception, too. He was unlucky. His story
probably is one of the reasons I've kept on being a chronicler
After I took his picture, while the chaplain administered
the last rites as the corpsman began transfusing him, he
came back to consciousness for a moment. His eyes rested
on me. He said, "Hey, who you spyin' for?"
"The folks back home, Marine."
"The folks-back home-huh? Well-fuck the folks back
home," he rasped. Then he closed his eyes. I didn't see where
his stretcher was carried.
After we had ceased loading for the day, his voice haunted
me. What lay behind that raw reflex answer? What dear-
John-I-know-you-understand letter? What other betrayal?
I remembered his wound. A piece of a giant mortar shell
had sliced across his stomach. So I went down into the ab-
dominal ward with my notebook in my hand. There were
no names in it yet because I wasn't willing to hold up mov-
ing stretchers while I spelled out names. But I had copied
the dogtag numbers of each man as I made his picture.
The nurses' clipboard listed the serial numbers of the
men being treated. The number I wanted wasn't there. I
80 What's A Woman Doing Here?
thought perhaps I had been mistaken about the kind of
wound he had, so I tried to find him in the other wards, the
other decks, even those of the officers. I couldn't find his
There was only one more set of papers aboard. This
showed the dogtag numbers of the men who had died on
deck. The number for which I was looking was near the
top of the list.
So I think I was the last person to whom he was able to
talk. And I had heard him die cursing what I thought he
had died to defend.
It was my first and most terrible encounter with the bar-
rier between men who fight, and those for whom the poets
and the powers say they fight. I thought then, if a man didn't
die for the folks back home, what else was there? For this, I
was going to search with my whole heart. For surely this was
the most powerful of all forces. A long time was to pass be-
fore I was sure of the answer, but then I knew I'd been right
that it was the most powerful force. In a word, love.
I believe a man goes into combat for the defense of the
folks back home. But no country, no slogan, no edict, no law,
no global pronouncement, no parliamentary decision is ever
what he dies for. He dies for the man on his right or his left.
He dies exposing himself so that they or all of them may
live, often in that order. Greater love hath no man. And
there isn't any other word.
The scene on the after welldeck of the Samaritan played
itself over and over the following day, the wounded coming
in a stream that never seemed to slow. We no longer heard
the sound of the firing of the warships nor did we gaze at the
billows of smoke over the island. It was as though they had
always been there.
The wards on one deck after another filled. In one of them,
on D plus 7, 1 encountered Pfc. Johnny Hood from Waycross,
The U.S.S. Samaritan 81
Georgia. I couldn't say I met him; he had too much vitality
for that. He was sitting up on his bunk, his rnidsection half
hidden behind a huge square bandage, and he hailed me.
"Hey, you made my picture yesterday."
I looked carefully at him and was sure I had never seen
him before in my life. I shook my head. Maybe I'd photo-
graphed the man next to him . . .
He was saying, "Look, I'll tell you how sure I am you got
my picture. I'll bet rny Kabar here" pulling his trench knife
out from under his pillow "against anything you want to
name that I'm right."
"You're wrong, Marine, honest you are. Here's my note-
book," I said, handing it to him. "I don't even know your
dogtag numbers but if you can find them in my book, you'll
sure surprise me."
He spotted them right away. And in my handwriting, of
How could I have photographed that Puck face and not
I looked up the ward corpsman and asked him about
Johnny. "It figures," said the corpsman. "We don't recognize
him this morning either." The corpsman told me Johnny
had been deeply cut by a shell fragment and had been bleed-
ing for five hours before he was carried aboard. His heart-
beat was almost imperceptible. When the corpsman started
to transfuse him, his wound wouldn't clot. In the end they
gave him fourteen pints of blood, nearly twice the amount
a human body can hold. He was unconscious throughout
and apparently then had gone into normal sleep. When he
awoke he was the vital bouncing Johnny I saw. The corps-
man finished, "If anybody ever asks you, does the blood out
here do any good you just tell them about Johnny."
First I went back and told Johnny what had happened to
him. He said, "Jeesh!"
82 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Then I photographed him again. For the next ten years,
the pair of pictures, taken only twenty-four hours and four-
teen pints of blood apart, were used to spur blood donor
drives all over the country. I tried to send each new poster
to Johnny's mother in Waycross, but there were too many
reproductions of the pictures and I lost track.
The Samaritan left Iwo's waters at sunset on D plus 7.
The ship could not carry or treat another wounded man.
Every corridor had become a ward. Men could not be moved
from the stretchers on which they had come aboard because
there was no vacant bed to lift them into. Some who needed
surgery were packed in ice so they would not die of infection
before they could have their turn in the operating rooms. I
remember one of those operating rooms where the camera
and I both were tied with rope to the pipes overhead so if I
fainted while I worked I wouldn't fall onto the surgeon's
hands. This was the room where one amputation of an arm
or a leg was performed every thirty minutes for three days
and three nights without interruption. The refuse bucket
here was a fifty-gallon oil drum without a top. It filled up
every three hours.
Under a steel-gray sky on the morning of D plus 10, the
Samaritan began unloading her anguished cargo into the
hospitals behind the harbor at Saipan. As the ship's bow
warped into the dock, lines of waiting ambulances, bumper-
to-bumper, began to move slowly down the causeway. Stand-
ing again on the after welldeck, I watched the unloading
The corridors of the ship gave up their stretchers first;
these came off in single file and then there was room for the
wards to be emptied by corpsmen going in four abreast.
One of the earliest to leave the ship was the Marine we
spoke of as "the man with no face." The tubes through
which he breathed and took nourishment were still being
The U.S.S. Samaritan 83
held In place by the nurse who had sat beside him for almost
every hour of the trip from Iwo.
One of the next was the bad burn case, only survivor of a
tank crew of six men. He had known it was a new Japanese
weapon that had destroyed his comrades and roasted a third
of the skin from his body, a type of landmine made from a
two hundred-pound bomb. He had raved a description of
the weapon over and over for hours in his delirium, driven
by the urgency of communicating his knowledge and not
able to see or hear my repeated replies that his message had
Then came the hardest to move, men whose stretchers
weighed twice as much as the flesh-and-blood on them be-
cause of the great plaster casts that embraced shattered necks
and spines and legs.
After them, sedated and blanket-swathed, caine the men
whose minds had broken rather than believe the horrors
their eyes had seen. The tenderness of their bearers was a
gesture they did not feel.
By noon there were only two groups of men still to be
One was the walking wounded, men with broken arms and
shoulders and chest bones who by now were able to carry
themselves on their own two legs. There were only a few
dozen of them, and they knew they had been taken aboard
by good fortune alone since only the critically wounded had
truly needed hospital ship care. So they had been unceas-
ingly willing to tend the many who might not walk again.
Most of them still wore battle dress, with the trench knives
that had been on their belts when they were delivered to us.
There was still another group. Knowledge of its existence
had been a closely guarded secret. As a correspondent I had
been reminded that I could be jailed if I let anything slip
84 What's A Woman Doing Here?
about it. "If you don't get killed in the riot, that is," I'd been
This group consisted of wounded Japanese prisoners, five
of them, all stretcher cases. Some freak of battle had cast
them into the custody of the Navy Medical Corps. The rarest
thing at this phase of the Pacific war was a live enemy
prisoner. By now, the only battle creed I heard was simply,
"The only good Jap is a dead Jap."
To let the Marines aboard know that they shared the
same vessel with the enemy, with men who could have fired
the shell that had torn their flesh, with men who almost
certainly had killed their buddies this was what the officer
of the deck of the Samaritan feared most at that moment.
In his hands was a clipboard on which a disordered sheaf of
papers listed the scheduled time of unloading from each
ward and corridor on the ship. He had showed it to me,
pointing out the fifteen-minute interval between the time
the last Marine walked off the ship and the time the five
enemy wounded were to be carried off on their stretchers.
"Thank God for that!" he'd said fervently. "If there's a
traffic jam, let's not have it tangling those walking wounded
with the Japs!"
Now the neat checkerboard of his schedule blurred. Un-
expectedly there was a holdup on the dock, and more than
twenty able Marines were milling around near the head of
the gangway when the enemy wounded were carried out
and set in a row almost at their heels.
I watched the young O.D. pale. This was exactly what he
had feared. The situation was so unlikely, though, that at
first the Marines did not grasp it.
Idly they looked and saw the black shaven heads with
Oriental eyes emerging from the blankets. It took a long
moment before they understood.
Watching the row of Japanese on stretchers and the group
The U.S.S. Samaritan 85
of wounded Marines, I lifted my camera. It was suddenly
heavier than it had ever been before. A voice hammered
inside of me, Please God . . . no! I don't want to take this
The Marines recognized at last what lay on the stretchers
behind them and wheeled around. The nearest man was
huge and square; his jacket was bloodstained, his left arm
in a sling. He was moving toward the closest Jap soldier-
I saw the O.D. move too, his drawn A5 in his hand, but
by now the Marine was beside the stretcher. His hand went
toward his hip where his trench knife was slung. Then the
hand came away from his dungaree pocket. Out of it he took
something long and white . . .
The wounded Marine put the cigarette between the
wounded enemy's cracked lips and wordlessly lit it. When
he saw from the jerky stirrings under the blanket that the
man was powerless to move his hands, the Marine squatted
on his heels and with an air of boredom removed the butt,
waited impassively till the Jap had blown out the smoke,
then gave him another drag.
From the head of the gangway came a rasping voice,
"Okay, okay move!"
The wounded Marine stood up, put the cigarette package
back into the half-torn pocket of his dungarees and strode
off the ship. He did not look back. Later in the day, when I
went down the gangway myself to board a Marine freight
plane returning me to Guam, I tried to follow the Marine's
example. But it was no use. My head was turning, I was
I don't know what my face showed as my eyes traveled
slowly up the bar of the Red Cross four decks high. But it
was a long look.
6. The Sound of Wasps
THE TENT WHICH was my home on Guam sat in a deserted
row of them, low and mottled green, on the lonely hilltop.
Far beneath, beyond the tree tops, lay the wreckage of
Agana, the little Guamanian capital, and beyond that the
sea with its gray ships in ordered lines. No sound ever rose
to the tent. I had only been back a few hours but the quiet,
the cessation of movement near me, made it seem like many
Inside the tent, Barbara Finch, who shared it with me, was
talking, sitting cross-legged on her canvas cot. A tiny woman
with a decisive way of moving her hands, she was covering
the Pacific Fleet for Reuters News Agency. The milk-white
pompadour which rose above her tanned face was immacu-
late, her bright gray eyes were serene. She had an encyclo-
pedic knowledge of the Pacific fighting. As American as I,
she had worked for years in South China for her news service.
I confided my worries to her. I told her I thought my effort
to be a combat correspondent had about run its course. "I
don't think the Navy will let me get that close again, any-
how/' I began. "But I don't want to report only on the
wounded. There must be other things out here even for a
woman to write about/'
Barbara thoughtfully tapped her knee with her fingertips.
The Sound of Wasps 87
She said there were. She said she herself was flying up to Iwo
Jima on an evacuation plane shuttling wounded from the
one airfield on the island which had been captured by the
Marines. "Why don't you try to make the same run the next
Around midnight of D Day plus 11, I was ready to set
foot for the first time in my life on contested real estate, and
I had the orders permitting me to do it in my hand. But the
pilot wasn't ready to take me.
Because Motoyama Airfield No. 1 on Iwo still was under
mortar fire, gasoline couldn't be stored on it. So the plane's
tanks had to hold all the fuel for the round trip when we
It was a DC-3, a modification which back in the States I
remembered airline pilots once had struck rather than try
to take off at a gross weight of thirteen tons. From Guam to
Iwo with the required fuel load, we would take off, if at all,
weighing fifteen and one half tons. Plus my weight, the
pilot pointed out.
"It's only 125 pounds," I pleaded, giving myself at least a
five-pound benefit of doubt.
"Oh, all right," he finally said, "come on. But don't blame
me if we never get off the ground. Aw, you won't have a
chance to anyhow," he finished, gesturing to indicate our
imminent demise. We thundered into a take-off run which
seemed to go on for weeks. Then we were airborne and had
a few Inches of sky under us. About ten miles out, the pilot
tried to climb. But the plane trembled and we made the
whole run at about the same altitude as the tallest white-
We had to waste fuel circling Iwo because artillery fire
was chewing up the field beside the runway. We could watch
the gray blossoms of each exploding shell spew up and dis-
sipate. When we hadn't seen any for ten minutes, we landed
88 What's A Woman Doing Here?
and taxied skidding with haste into what seemed to be a
sheltered corner of the field. Here hills of sand as high as
buildings made an L shape. But their protection was illusory,
since the real danger was of Japanese mortars from which
shells could be lobbed lip over the ridge.
* 'Don't walk run!" yelled the pilot. We jumped from the
plane's door and started. And instantly discovered that we
were progressing at about the same speed as if we'd been
crawling. The sand was volcanic ash, with huge grains, and
so soft we sank up to our ankles at every step.
Ahead of us were the roofs of two wide tents dug deep
into the earth with a crude road between at the level of
their ridge poles. My stomach and ears told me what they
sheltered. Here were the wounded Marines for whom there
had been no more room on the hospital ships.
"Welcome to the unmentionable island," someone was
hailing us. "You bring luck."
Standing in a hip-deep foxhole was a distinguished-look-
ing man with a shock of short gray hair. I couldn't see any
insignia of rank since he wasn't wearing a dungaree jacket.
Half his face was clean-shaven, the other half lathered. A
helmet half full of water rode upended on the lip of his
foxhole. We waded toward him and he introduced himself.
He was Lieutenant Commander David Archambault, a sur-
geon from New York. The two wide tents comprised the field
hospital he commanded.
"This is a hospital?" 1 asked, horrified.
"In the sight of God and the authorities, it is," said the
doctor, making me ashamed of my question. He dipped his
razor into his helmet. "We haven't been so badly hit as to
force us to stop operating for a whole day and night now,
the first time that's happened. Oh, last night we had to work
for a time by starshells, but we were able to keep on."
The Sound of Wasps 89
Wordlessly, I took the camera and went into the nearest
It was an operating room by act of human will only. Two
stretchers resting across upended crates marked WHOLE HU-
MAN BLOOD KEEP ICED were the operating tables. Half a dozen
other stretchers lined the dug-out walls. I sat on my heels
in the sand and watched the doctors and corpsmen work.
Bearded, red-eyed, in ragged dungarees spattered with blood,
they were doing just what I'd seen the doctors in white
gowns do on the Samaritan. But there wasn't a piece of
furniture or medical equipment here except a canvas roll of
gleaming instruments from which the surgeon occasionally
took a fresh one.
I could feel the eyes of the man on the nearest stretcher
watching me while I made my pictures. Finally he spoke,
his voice low and gentle.
"You don't have a gun/' he said wonderingly, as if it were
the most curious thing in the world.
"Correspondents don't carry guns, Marine," I answered,
leaning over so he wouldn't have to strain to hear me. Now
I could see why he was here. His leg was turned as an un-
broken leg can not lie, and bloody beside. I started to take
his picture, wondering if he were eighteen or thirty-five.
His nose and jaw were heavy, and his whole face encrusted
with dirt and sand.
He volunteered serenely, "Doctor said he'd try to save my
leg and tell me right away if he could. I won't have to wait
to find out, I mean. I'm lucky."
This cracked me up. I looked away but the Marine wasn't
letting me off that easy. He was fumbling at his belt and
then he was holding out something in his hands and saying,
"Here. You take it. Where I'm going, I won't need one.
And if you ever do, you'll need it bad."
He was holding out his trench knife. I tried to say thank
90 What's A Woman Doing Here?
you. Then I squatted down next to him while I fastened the
leather sheath on my belt. He was satisfied only after I had
placed it so the laminated leather handle of the Kabar rose
almost under the fingers of my right hand.
Then he said, "I feel better about you now."
I knew it was time for me to go away until I reclaimed
control of myself. I stumbled out of the tent and blindly
began to cross the road.
What happened then didn't take half a second.
I sensed a rising thunder over which someone I never did
find out who it was shouted, "Hold it, Mrs. Chapelle!"
At the sound of my name, I stopped stock still.
As I did, a buttoned-up tank charging out for the front
passed me so close that some projecting part flipped the
camera from my hand high into the air. My dungaree sleeve
ripped to the elbow.
After a time, I picked the Graphic up out of the soft sand.
It wasn't damaged. But I knew that one more step into the
road after I heard my name would have brought me directly
in front of the charging tank.
I took a deep shuddering breath and decided there must
be some stupid thing I hadn't done yet this morning but I
couldn't think what it might be.
I turned shakily and found myself looking into the faces of
two bearded officers. They were a chunky Marine captain
and a lanky Marine lieutenant, both clearly amused at the
spectacle I'd provided.
The lieutenant said, "How the hell did you get here? We
sure didn't expect to see a br I mean, a woman."
I summoned what dignity I could and told them I was a
civilian correspondent who had come to Iwo to photograph
Apparently I'd said something right, although I couldn't
The Sound of Wasps 91
think which was the magic word. I was pretty sure it wasn't
There was no bantering note in the lieutenant's voice
when he spoke again. "Where do you want to go?"
My reflexes were back to normal. 'Tar forward as you'll
The two officers looked at each other. The captain dipped
his bewhiskered chin about a sixteenth of an inch.
"Well, come on," said the lieutenant, pointing to a weap-
ons carrier parked ahead on the tank track. "But I'll tell you
right now, girl, don't try to talk me any farther out than the
Farther forward than the front? Where was that?
I had forty minutes' ride to think about it. By that time, I
was almost as exultant as I was scared, which is saying a good
deal. Halfway around the world, I'd listened to myself saying
I wanted to go forward, hadn't I? I'd never examined the
truth of the statement. If there'd been anybody along the
way who hadn't taken it seriously, it had been me.
And now I'd said it to a man in green dungarees instead
of the blue uniforms with whom I'd begun the game. Well,
it seemed the rules just had changed. I'm sure glad you meant
it, girl, I told myself.
Finally the lieutenant pulled the truck to one side and
cut the motor. "End of the line," he breathed. "This is it
What was he almost whispering for? Anyway, I was never
more disappointed in my life,
I knew no editor on earth would accept a picture of a
truck and a man on a track in the sand as showing a front
line. And that was all I could see. All I could hear were scat-
tered rifle shots. Distantly. Or at least muffled.
But, wait a minute. If I climbed up on top of one of the
sand ridges, I'd overlook half the island. I started across the
92 What's A Woman Doing Here?
track toward the higher ridge, and suddenly felt that it might
not be safe just to go charging up the hill. It seemed like an
odd place to use a word like safe out loud, so I wouldn't
ask the lieutenant. I'd go up slowly (what other way was
there?) and if it were too dangerous, he would stop me. If it
were safe, he'd probably come along.
I began climbing. The Marine did neither. As if he was
sure I knew what I was about, he was leaning back against
a fender of the weapons carrier. He lighted a cigarette with-
out taking his eyes off the road ahead.
At last, gasping for breath, I reached the top of the ridge.
Now I understood why I hadn't seen anything below and
heard so little. The whole area was honeycombed with sand
ridges, their overall pattern like a waffle. From the bottom
of one square, of course you couldn't see what was happening
in the next. And each ridge would act as a baffle to absorb
I realized I'd forgotten to ask the lieutenant the most im-
portant question of all. In which direction lay the front
lines? I thought about going back to find out but that would
mean I'd have to climb up again. No, I knew an easier solu-
tion. I'd take four sets of pictures, each in a different direc-
tion. One set and probably two was bound to show the front
I stood up, planted my feet firmly and raised the camera.
The sea of square pits in the sand stretched to the far
shore of the island. Three tanks far enough away to look
toy-size moved gingerly through the center of the picture.
One bounced as I watched. A detonation rolled over the
ridgetops a few seconds later. It had fired.
I listened hard but nothing else happened.
Where were all the people?
I shifted the camera at right angles from where it had been
pointing, and saw three Marines. Digging. As I watched, they
The Sound of Wasps 93
disappeared into the earth. So there could be people in every
pit, I reasoned, and not one would show.
It was hot now and the wind carried a shout over me. But
it didn't sound as loud as my own breathing or the noises
of bugs or the crunch of my boots in the gray gravel. I real-
ized I was really frightened now. I craned my neck down
toward the lieutenant to prove to myself I wasn't the last
living person left on earth. He hadn't moved.
By the time I finished the last set of pictures, I could
hardly steady my hands on the camera. I knew what it meant
when people said they felt their skin crawl. I was heart-in-
throat glad to leave the ridge.
The lieutenant only flicked his eyes up at me while I
skidded on my heels down the sand incline. Not till I'd
jumped across the ditch and was standing beside the vehicle
did he change his relaxed stance. But then he flung away his
cigarette with one furious motion. He fixed me with a steely
glare. Under his beard rose a brick-red flush.
"That was the goddamndest thing I ever saw anybody
do in my life! Do you realize all the artillery and half the
snipers on both sides of this fucking war had ten full minutes
to make up their minds about you?"
I knew my mouth had dropped open but I couldn't seem
to close it.
"Didn't anyone anywhere ever pound into your little
head that you do not stand up stand up y good Christ in
heaven! on a skyline, let alone stand up for ten minutes?
And do you realize that if you'd gone and gotten yourself
shot I'd have had to spend the rest of the war and ten years
after that filling out fucking papers?"
Obviously, the lieutenant was waiting for me to say some-
thing. But what? He gestured me back into the weapons
carrier and horsed it around in a U-turn.
As we began to move some words did occur to me.
94 What's A Woman Doing Here?
"Uh I'm sorry, Lieutenant.'*
After I'd said it, I knew it didn't sound right.
We passed an MP chewing gum and sitting on a rock
with his rifle across his knees. Then the lieutenant pulled
up to the side of the track and looked hard at me. "Are you
trying to tell me that you honestly don't know any better? I
mean, you're out here, and you don't know what you should
I considered that for a minute and said, "You mean, I
should have made the pictures lying down?"
"When did you first think of that?"
"Well, that is correct," he said. "Do you think you could
"Oh, I won't forget," I said fervently. "It was too lonesome
This finished it. The lieutenant was chuckling so hard
he could hardly drive.
When we pulled up beside the ridge at the hospital and
Fd jumped down from the running board, he held out his
hand. "Girl," he said quite formally, "I just want you to
know that you sure made my day." He wheeled the truck
around and charged off in a spray of sand.
I should have shouted after him that he'd done even more
for me. He'd implanted the notion that maybe this war cor-
responding business involved more than just knowing how
to make remarks which rang like a bell.
I flew back to Guam at sunset as my orders specified I
should and was jeeped to the foot of my hill. Back in the
tent, Barbara was sitting cross-legged on the edge of her cot
as though she'd never left it. When I told her what had hap-
pened to me on Iwo, she tapped her knee, shook her pom-
The Sound of Wasps 95
padour and said, "You mean, the island was so quiet all the
way across that you could do a thing like that?"
"I don't know, but I did/'
"There hasn't been a lull like that since the fighting
started. It's news that it happened. Think hard now. Tell me
every sound you heard on the top of that ridge."
"A tank fired once. A man shouted. I breathed real hard
and there were wasps and I could hear the shutter of my
"There were what?" She was leaning forward, her gray
"Wasps, I guess. Insect noises, anyhow."
She tucked her feet back under her and leaned back grin-
ning. What was funny now?
She said gently, "I don't think we'll file that the entire
front was wholly inactive today, after all. And I guess some-
body will have to tell you." She went on distinctly, "There
is no -insect life on Iwo Jima. It's a dead volcano."
My voice squeaked, "You mean, those weren't"
Barbara undulated her white pompadour back and forth.
"They were not wasps," she said with finality.
It was after dawn before I fell asleep and later in the
morning I was only half-awake as I fed a fresh sheet of paper
into the typewriter and began to copy the notes from the
previous day out of my book.
But I wasn't too weary to type the date line firmly as if I'd
been writing date lines like it all my life. FROM THE FRONT
AT IWO JIMA MARCH 5
Then I remembered and added two words.
They looked great.
The immediate military consequences of Iwo's capture
96 What's A Woman Doing Here?
were easy to show in arithmetic, Iwo's airfields were used by
2,251 American bombers in trouble, and the crewmen who
lived through those forced landings numbered 24,761. So
even in 1945 we knew the price of Iwo and the return on it
in terms of human tissue were in their proper grisly balance.
But looking back on the battle now, I know we were watch-
ing something of long range significance. It was here that
the amphibious capability of American assault forces at last
came of age. Not till Iwo was there an accepted doctrine to
solve final tactical problems, especially the timing of naval
bombardment and the geometry of landing waves. What
was proved in blood on the island, is the fashion in which
we today know our country's forces large or small can move
ashore anywhere, any time, under any conditions including
7. As Far Forward . . . " On Okinawa
To THE VAST Invasion fleet, Okinawa at dawn on L Day-
April 1, 1945 was first a dark smudge on the far horizon
starkly symbolic of a place for dying. By sunset, the drama
was drained from the sight. It had become only another
Pacific shoreline, a sweeping length of beach, a crumbling
slate-gray bluff, a broken row of white-skinned birches.
There had been almost no dying. Incredibly, for their own
tactical reasons, the Japanese defenders had elected to let
some twenty thousand American Marines and soldiers come
ashore opposed only by scattered rifle shots.
I had sailed up from Guam to the anchorage of the assault
forces aboard the hospital ship 7.S.S. Relief. In my pocket
was a letter from Tony, I hadn't heard from him since I'd
left Pearl Harbor. That was weeks before, but I'd been
resigned to having no news from him.
The wrong side had been winning the war in China, Tony
wrote, not Japanese but Communist. So the Chungking
photo project had been cancelled for good. He expected to
leave for Naples to establish a photo center there in about a
"If this reaches you in the trenches, dear doughgirl, just
remember how good fresh cold milk tasts and come home
right away where you can have all you can drink/' said the
98 What's A Woman Doing Here?
letter. To a girl who grew up in Wisconsin, this was calcu-
lated torture. But my heart was light. If I could finish my
coverage of blood at Okinawa and fly straight home, Yd see
him again before he went overseas for the duration. But I
had a job to do first.
Except for her nurses and those on the ship beside us, the
U.S.S. Comfort, I was the only woman in the invasion fleet
and the one reporter on a hospital ship. At first I probably
was the one person afloat to whom the sight of the shore
offered no challenge. 1 knew I wasn't going to set foot on it.
I'd asked permission to follow Navy medical corpsmen ashore
with the Marines and instead had been ordered to cover
the use of whole human blood in saving the lives of casual-
ties. That would happen right where I was on the Relief.
The orders had been given to me on Guam personally by
the ranking public relations officer of the entire Pacific Fleet,
Rear Admiral H. B. Miller, whom we reporters called "Skip-
per Min." By the morning of L Day plus 2 at Okinawa, it
was obvious that I wasn't even going to be able to make the
report for which the Skipper had given me orders. There
weren't any fighting men coming out to us in need of life-
saving blood transfusions.
I could see I was going to have to disobey some part of my
orders those to cover blood or those to remain afloat in the
anchorage. I felt almost as confused as a recruit who has for-
gotten which is his left foot. I decided this was a problem
for higher authority.
Well, whom could I ask? One answer was anchored one
thousand yards away, the E7.S.S. Eldorado, the same com-
mand ship which had been at Iwo Jima. Aboard her I knew
there should be a deputy of Admiral Miller's.
I hitch-hiked over to the Eldorado on a passing LCVP. At
the head of her gangway I was met by Commander Paul
Smith, the most combatant public relations officer in uni-
"As Far Forward . . ." On Okinawa 99
form. As a Marine troop commander, he recently had been
decorated in battle. He had been transferred to the Navy to
serve as press liaison during the Okinawa operation, after
which he was expected to leave the service because of wounds
received in action. And this was the living legend on whose
shoulders I'd been planning to weep about a question which
basically involved discipline! I had better think of something
I started by temporizing. "Sir, I'm under orders to cover
whole human blood as it saves the lives of the wounded. I
understand the Navy needs more donations from civilians,
and maybe my pictures will help. May I have a briefing on
how blood is supplied to the troops here?"
Commander Smith gravely confirmed that the services
were not receiving enough blood from the States. He sug-
gested I interview an Army colonel, stationed aboard, one of
whose responsibilities was the delivery of blood to field hos-
pitals ashore. The colonel told me first about the main stock-
pile of blood donations for the Okinawa operation. It was at
the moment on Brown Beach, he said, only a "short boat
ride" from the Eldorado.
I went back to Commander Smith and made an effort to
sound fairly military. "Request permission to visit the
Army's blood stockpile on Brown Beach, sir/*
I paused. If I went to Brown Beach, wherever that was, I
would unquestionably no longer be afloat in the anchorage.
Commander Smith was saying evenly, "You will eat in the
wardroom now. There is an LCVP leaving the Eldorado
after lunch. It will take you over and bring you back this
I hadn't expected conscience or jitters either to slap me
down but at lunch, something did. Commander Smith was
Admiral Miller's deputy, so by custom whatever he said had
the same force as if the Admiral had said it. But I'd acted as
100 What's A Woman Doing Here?
though the subject of my going ashore had never come up
before, and I knew better than that.
After lunch I went belowdecks to Commander Smith's
office. I didn't know what I was going to say. I never said a
word. He looked up across the deck at me and snapped,
"Dickey, I distinctly told you the boat doesn't leave for the
beach until 1300. That's half an hour from now. I can't do
anything to get you there quicker!"
I fled. I'd made my gesture.
No longer burdened by any reservations, I walked down
the gangway under the eye of a quizzical officer of the deck
and jumped into the landing boat. I also had no pack, hel-
met, canteen, firearm, mess gear, spare socks, escort, map or
information about the tactical situation ashore.
As the cox'n gunned the engine, somebody on deck
"That girl can't go ashore" My heart stopped. He fin-
ished, "without a helmet/'
Somebody threw one down to us and I started to put it on.
The liner would rip holes in my hairnet, though, and who
needed a helmet to go over to Brown Beach for a little
while? I hung it by the chinstrap on my arm.
The "short boat ride" took two hours and the boat went
only part of the way. At three o'clock in the afternoon, an
amphibious tractor delivered me and a lanky Australian
correspondent named Jim MacLean with no gear but a port-
able typewriter onto a curving white stretch of sand.
I was ashore on Okinawa.
Over the thudding racket of his engine, the amtrack driver
shouted that this was Orange Beach. He said the surf had
been too high for him to get in at Brown Beach. Wheeling
his monster around, he yelled, "Say, you people know I
won't be back for you today, don't you? The wind's coming
up/' and he was gone.
"As Far Forward . . !' On Okinawa 101
The gaunt Australian and I looked at each other. I saw a
lean face, a lot of eyebrows and a relaxed expression. He
said, "I've been seven years in this business and I must say,
you Americans do it differently from anyone else."
I didn't care to admit I'd never seen it done before at all,
so I said shortly, "Which way is Brown Beach?"
"Oh, is there a Brown Beach? I didn't know. Where is it
on your map?"
"I don't have a map. Can I see yours a minute?"
"You could if I had one. But I never use them. I just write
my stories about the first fighting unit I come to."
"Well, which way is the fighting?"
We paused and listened. All the noise was far away. No
insects, I observed. Suddenly I don't know why to this day
a clump of birch trees almost directly over our heads burst
We were still running when Jim threw back over his shoul-
der, "Why don't you photograph it? The camera's right in
It was, too. But I couldn't see why he should have all the
comedy lines, so after we had concluded no artillery was
chasing us personally, I said, "My mother told me if I were
ever lost I should look for a policeman. Do you have a better
We were walking along a little road and my clairvoyance
was established at once. Two MP's in a jeep pulled up along-
"Brown Beach?" said one as if I had asked him about some
place in central Africa. "We got no Brown Beach."
"It's an Army beach," I supplied.
He said, "We're Marines. We don't know where any dog-
gie beach is. We'll give you a lift to the Sixth Division. Sixth
The Sixth Marine Division was commanded by Major Gen-
102 What's A Woman Doing Here?
eral Lemuel C. Shepherd, and I remembered he'd once in-
vited me to visit it. That had happened on one of the islands
at Ulithi when the Okinawa invasion fleet was assembling
there. I'd been puzzled by our conversation. After I'd men-
tioned that I lacked orders permitting me to go ashore, the
general had smoothly said he trusted I'd cover his division in
combat. After I'd repeated that I wouldn't be where they
were, his classic features under a shock of white hair, a face
which would have looked well on a Roman coin, had broken
up with mirth. Now for the first time I saw what he'd been
chuckling at. He'd just been guessing that I wouldn't be
able to resist the mystique of contested real estate. And he
was right, wasn't he?
Leaving Jim to make his way to Yontan Field at First Di-
vision headquarters, I jumped into the jeep, and was on my
way up the coastal road to the Sixth Division headquarters.
The general showed no surprise at all to see me. "My dear,
you are a brave girl," was his grave greeting as he came out
of a tent among tall pines. Nobody had ever said anything
that pleased me more. He added, "You're in time to eat with
Nearby was a table of boards supported on ration cartons
and a sergeant began to put steaming hot rations in dishes,
not tins, down in front of us. I was impressed, though I
decided we must be a long way behind the front and I won-
dered if it would be tactful to ask.
Then came the most terrifying noise I had heard in my
life. It was doom-in-freight-cars and right over our heads.
I looked up to see the world come to an end. But the trees
and the sky were still there. The noise cut off and began ris-
ing again. My face must have showed exactly what I felt.
Brave girl, indeed!
General Shepherd was leaning across the table toward me.
"It's all right, Dickey," he said. "They're ours."
"As Far Forward . . " On Okinawa 103
In time the noise stopped and I found out later they were
the division's big artillery, 155 mm. howitzers. But I was
never a brave girl either then or later about the sound they
I went about looking without success for a casualty re-
ceiving a blood transfusion. There were none. I was about
ready to write off my war-type war corresponding career
again. All I had to show for my efforts was a new look to
my camera. Master Sergeant John J. Connolly, the division's
ranking combat photographer, had "borrowed" it long
enough to paint over every chromium-plated part with dull
black lacquer. He said, "We'd have been welcome as plague
in a fightin' outfit, the way you had it. Those shambo snipers
can see every bit of glitter every time. You know what hap-
pens if we draw fire up forward?"
I could guess but obviously I wasn't supposed to. I said,
"The fightin' troops'd throw us out. We'd have to come
back. But it'll be okay now. Tomorrow I'll show you"
"I won't be here tomorrow."
"You going forward tonight?" There was admiration in
It was hard to say it, but I did. "No. Back."
"Why back? You haven't been here long enough to do
He was indignant for me and I felt better. But not much.
I was summoned then to the chief of the division staff,
CoL John MacQueen. He and General Shepherd were sitting
behind a field desk. "You should be starting back to the coast
by jeep now," said the colonel, glancing at his watch. "But
we just refused permission for one of the Army observers to
make the run back to Yontan because there's been sniper
fire on the roads."
"I have to go, Colonel," I said. I decided to tell the rest of
104 What's A Woman Doing Her el
it. "I'm only ashore on vocal orders and they've just expired.
It'll make trouble if I don't show up,"
Nobody was deeply moved. It occurred to me that they
didn't use the word trouble much around here for what I
meant. Trouble was when people were dead.
General Shepherd said, "I won't give a civilian orders.
You make up your own mind. But you may have what the
colonel just said in writing."
I must have been the slowest learner in the forward areas.
"Sir, I should go back. Why, General, I don't believe a
woman reporter has ever stayed out with a Marine division
The general said, "I don't believe so, either." Now what
was all that amusement in his eyes? The last time he'd chuck-
led like that had been when I said I wasn't coming ashore on
"Sir," I said, with decision, "I don't think it would be fair
to expose a Marine jeep driver to sniper fire just so I can
keep from being chewed out." It even sounded noble as I
"I don't believe I do either, Dickey/' replied the general.
He turned away and I never did find out if this time he was
actually laughing out loud.
I was to leave at dawn for the farthest forward aid station
by the colonel's jeep.
Meantime, I was to sleep in General Shepherd's field
office, a tent of canvas light-proofed so it could be used at
night. The division staff kept security against infiltration by
doing their sleeping with bare knives in their hands under
a big tent top about thirty-five yards away, General Shep-
herd's cot in the middle and the others arranged like spokes
in a wheel around it.
When I woke up, it was not sunrise any more; it was
bright morning. This was the day I was supposed to redeem
"As Far Forward . . ." On Okinawa 105
my career as a war correspondent, and I'd started off by
sleeping sleeping! through a chance to go forward. I'd
never been more bitter in my life.
Somebody shook the tent flaps. It was the colonel's jeep
driver. He didn't have a mission to the front in mind, how-
ever. He was passing in to me a white enamel basin filled
with warm water. A shaving mirror came with the warm
water, a nice big square one. I looked into it. And almost
renounced journalism on the spot.
In the twenty-four hours or so since I'd left the Relief,
I hadn't seen myself in a mirror. And now I wished I'd left
it at that. Was this smudged and leather-hided hag me? I
washed hard three times.
But I was still dejected after I left the black-out tent. On a
large flat rock I saw a leather bag and a pair of little cameras.
The bag was marked EYERMAN. It must belong to Jay Eyer-
man, a veteran war photographer I'd known briefly back
on Guam. He had covered Marines for a long time. Maybe
I'd weep on his shoulder.
I saw him then, striding back toward his gear. He looked
relaxed and content in the sunshine, and he studied my
downcast air clinically.
After our greetings, he said, "Whatever's happened to
I muttered, "Oh, nothing."
"Well, how've you been doing?"
"Doing? I'm not doing anything!" I burst out. "I guess I
don't understand how anybody in this business gets anything
done. Do you know, I've been with this outfit all the time
since yesterday afternoon. And either I can't find pictures
or I can't get to where they are or I get separated from my
camera or I don't understand about arrangements, or"
Concern, amusement, at last annoyance flickered across
106 What's A Woman Doing Heref
Jay's sunburned face. He interrupted, "Say, did you eat to-
"I'm not hungry."
Now I saw what he had in his hands. K ration. He cut off
two carton tops with his knife and handed me one. "Eat this.
All of it. Ill be here to see that you do."
I did, although not in any hurry. Jay finished his, too.
Then he uncoiled himself to his full tall height and snapped
at me, "Stand up!"
I was so surprised that I lounged to my feet.
"I told you to stand up, not lean on the rock/'
I did, but I said, "Why?"
He answered my question with one of his own. "Anybody
tell you to come all the way out here?"
"No, and they better not."
"You got into this yourself, didn't you?"
"You know of anybody else who's done the same thing?"
"Can you remember why you did?"
I had to think hard. "The fleet needs blood. Pictures help
people to give blood."
"How many times did you try to do something about it?"
"Once yesterday I went on an inspection trip with the
surgeon and I was supposed to go with a combat photog-
rapher and a jeep driver but"
Jay wasn't impassive any more. He was struggling to sup-
press some emotion. But all he said, and gently, was, "Did
you ever think of trying to do it by yourself? I mean, how
have you been working? Have you been going around asking
these people permission to do things?"
I was one short, near-sighted, unarmed woman and they
were an inexorable amphibious force in motion. I said,
"As Far Forward . . " On Okinawa 107
Jay relaxed. He grinned and shook his head at the same
time. He asked, "How much blood can a general give?"
"Eight pints and he's dead. Same as anybody else/'
"How much blood can you raise with pictures?"
"Gallons. Rivers, if they're any good/'
"Well, don't forget: a photographer is as important as a
general." I was willing to try the idea for size. It was tremen-
Jay picked up the ration cartons. "Well, let's go. We only
have five minutes till staff meeting/*
"Five minutes to what?"
"Staff meeting. You know what a staff meeting is, don't
"Never heard of it." Even now I flinch to remember
that I never had.
"Military people have a family clambake," Jay patiently
explained, "about this hour every day where almost every-
thing that's happened usually gets mentioned. Shut up and
listen in on it, and you don't have to ask questions. Or get
permissions." The last two words obviously hurt Jay to speak.
I went with him. In half an hour, from the staff members'
routine verbal reports to each other, I learned more about
the Sixth Marine Division than I'd have found out by asking
questions for a week.
I learned that the reason I hadn't been trundled up to
-the front that dawn wasn't even personal. There had not
been a single casualty during the night requiring a trans-
I learned that there were at this hour eight critically
wounded Marines the word for them was purple casualties
on the division front.
I learned that the next transportation toward them would
be the vehicle of the medical battalions commander, Lieu-
tenant Commander John S. Cowan.
108 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I thought I'd take all Jay's counsel in one fell swoop, so I
went out to the motor pool and sat down in the back of
Commander Cowan's jeep.
When he and several others walked out to it, I waited till
he said, a little surprised,
"You coming with us?"
I remembered the trick was to word it so you weren't
asking permission. "Unless you throw me out of here, I am."
Cowan replied smoothly, "No, I don't think we will."
And I was off for the front on Okinawa. As simple as that.
As we jounced across a ditch onto the road, my photogra-
pher's eye was pleased to see that the non-combatancy of our
mission didn't show. Here we were, going out toward the
eight purple casualties perhaps only to check their treatment,
and to see us you'd think we were charging straight across
No Man's Land.
We were five people in the jeep and among the men
were I counted one BAR, four rifles, two pistols and six
trench knives. Mine made the seventh. The driver's rifle
rode his dashboard so the butt came almost under his fin-
gers, and the lanky agreeable Commander Cowan wore one
of the .45's and rested an M-l across his lap. I felt all that
hardware was plainly theatrical, but it would help my pic-
tures look military.
The jeep began an almost rhythmic lurching among mud
ruts, and Commander Cowan made sure we knew each other.
At the wheel beside him was Corporal Frank Brija, home-
town Lansing, Michigan. Brija had a big-boned open face,
huge hands and a habit of grunting quotable understate-
ments. Later I overheard Commander Cowan promise him
a promotion. He only shook his head. "Nah. It'll never hap-
pen. You don't get promoted inna M'rines. You jus' winna
goddamn war." Nobody you'd forget, that Brija.
The two men with whom I shared the back of the jeep
"As Far Forward . . /' On Okinawa 109
were as unlike one another as two men in uniform could be.
One must have been the boniest man in the Corps. He han-
dled his heavy automatic rifle as if it had been made of glass
which would shatter without the pressure of his grip on the
stock. He was a sergeant who had been decorated three times
in seven landings for combat missions as a scout and sniper.
Beside him sat a man whose shoulder muscles bulged his
dungaree jacket so his .45 looked like a water pistol. He
could have posed for a poster of a perfect fighting man, but
his official status was the same as mine as an observer. He
was Major Armand Brunet, a surgeon from the Royal Ca-
nadian Medical Corps.
As soon as we'd acknowledged the introductions Cowan
made, the jeep began climbing a mountain. It sidled along
a track barely projecting from the face of a cliff. Ahead, the
road hair-pinned around and doubled back on another cliff
across the green valley. The road was narrow but for one
spot about a hundred yards ahead. Here it widened, and the
broader place was occupied by a Marine tank. A talking tank.
Its cannon barrel was depressed so it pointed almost hori-
zontally, and it was firing every few seconds at a target some-
where across the valley. The barrel completely blocked our
But Brija did not slow down. He leaned far out, almost
over the precipice, and waved his left arm. A hand waved
back from the tank turret. The tank crew's timing was per-
fect. Just before we all would have been decapitated by the
gun barrel, the tank fired and elevated the barrel till it was
pointing straight up. We rocketed past, the gun lowered
back down again and fired. The tank crew had not missed a
beat in the rhythm of their barrage to let us by.
Cowan murmured, "All right, keep your heads down/'
and after that nobody said anything. We followed the road
as it curved around to the other cliff face (idly I wondered,
110 What's A Woman Doing Here?
wasn't this the area into which that tank had been firing?)
and soon we were coming down off the height onto the
Except for trees overhanging the mud track, there wasn't
much to see. But there was a lot to hear, and it grew louder
and louder. First thunder, then an over-and-over orump-and-
roll. When we could pick out individual detonations, Cowan
looked at his watch and motioned Brija to stop the jeep.
"Twenty minutes," he said, his voice so low it was hard
to hear him. "Let's eat." I'd been curious about two small
cardboard cartons with half-moon markings which Brija
had picked out of a ditch at a road junction. They contained
ration tins. I ate mine leisurely, noticing that lunch wasn't
a very sociable time. Two of the men ate hurriedly while
the other two stood with their weapons at the ready, and
then they changed places.
It was just after we were under way again that we saw the
A few hours earlier, it must have been picture-postcard
pretty, an Okinawan hamlet tucked into a length of beach
in the lee of a great arc of cliffs. The surf danced into the
beach and the rock cliffs rose like gray eyebrows above. The
village had been laid out according to the undulations of
the land, and not a path or lane followed a harsh straight
line. The main street curved sharply around a giant tree,
its weathered trunk a yard thick. The village houses had
been of mud and reed with red tile roofs. The only building
of bricks had been the teahouse beside the main street near
the great tree.
More than that we could not tell. The village had been
the target of our artillery barrage to which we had been lis-
We climbed out of the jeep. For a minute we stood mo-
tionless not far apart from one another. It was not that we
"As Far Forward . . " On Okinawa 111
expected to hear anything more, although the men's hands
had gone reflexively to their weapons as if a shot might come.
Nor did we really expect to see anything happen. Nothing
which could move lay alive before us.
For an instant we were transfixed by the simple, absolute
nature of man-made destruction.
Not a roof still sheltered a building. Most roofs were just
disordered piles of tile among ruined walls. And not a build-
ing still showed four walls intact. The broken huts had
spilled out the things that had belonged to people, a stool
with its wooden legs askew, a blackened cooking pot pour-
ing its stew onto the road, a lacquered chest with incongru-
ously bright rags flung over its splinters. Some combination
of explosions had lifted the teahouse bodily from its founda-
tion, and the rubble blocked the street near the spreading
and now branchless tree.
Something did move, then, a shimmer in the sunlight. It
was the last settling of dust which marks the end of an artil-
lery barrage. Whenever I hear anyone speak glowingly of
international peace attained through international violence,
I always wonder if he has seen that particular shimmer. It's
peaceful all right, but to whom can it matter?
Overlooking the village then, I felt a flash of curiosity
about my own war-hating ancestors. Would they have re-
membered first that the destruction safeguarded one of
their own descendants? Or that it ended a way of life for
other hundreds of people, the villagers, who weren't really
"Well, we really plastered this one/' Cowan summed up,
We began to prowl forward, Cowan and Brija ahead of us
and the scout behind, all the weapons at the ready. I dis-
covered I was holding the Graphic as if I were going to
throw it instead of make pictures with it. From one pile of
112 What's A Woman Doing Here?
wreckage to the next we moved tensely without speaking.
Where were the people who had lived here? The dead were
chickens, dogs, rats.
Cowan led us back to the remembered security of the
jeep and spoke in an almost normal tone of voice. "That's
that. Nobody alive. Nobody dead. They must have gotten
the word we sent them in time and moved out of the place
before we opened up."
Major Brunet held his voice just above a whisper, but for
the first time I understood what it was we were looking for.
"But, Cowan, your people did too good a job. You can't
put an aid station in here, certainly not a field hospital. No
building is left for you." Cowan didn't answer. But Brija
"We can go on ahead aways, sir. I can horse the jeep
around the tree. I'll plow through those chicken yards be-
hind the teahouse."
Cowan nodded and we reboarded the jeep. Half an hour
later, he found what he wanted. It was a lone vacant build-
ing with four high stone walls intact beside a jutting beach.
We prowled it inside and out, but there was no one there.
After Brija was wheeling us back the way we'd come, Cowan
and Brunet talked about it.
"After your people move in, it won't be hard to defend/'
Brunet said, "not out on that spit of land."
I was mystified. Why did anybody worry about defending
a rear-area installation like a hospital?
When we passed the spot where we had first heard the
artillery, all the men but the scout appeared to relax. It
seemed to me our side trip was taking a lot of time when I
should have been working. I asked,
"Are we going to see any of the casualties, Commander
"It's pretty late for that today," he answered. The sun was
"As Far Forward . . /* On Okinawa 113
lowering over the ocean. "Besides, most of them will have
moved. The command post displaced right after we left."
"Uh are we going to see the front tomorrow, then?* 1
Cowan and Brunet both were gazing raptly at me.
"Tomorrow?" asked Cowan.
I couldn't hide my confusion any longer. "I thought you
said at staff meeting you were going to the front."
Cowan's long gray face and Brunet's square tanned one
under the road dust were breaking up with amusement. I
wondered what I'd done now. They told me.
Cowan said distinctly, "We're sitting on it right now. You
haven't been anywhere behind it since we passed the tank."
Brunet picked up, "You remember the tank?"
They both burst out laughing delightedly. The scout
turned his face so I couldn't see if he had retained his im-
passivity and Brija absolutely chortled.
"Now don't you go write in your dispatches that you were
miles out there," Cowan was cautioning me between chuck-
les. "With all that doubling around we did, we probably
never got more than a thousand yards across No Man's
I had the grace to say "Oh." And to take a dark private
oath that one of these days I was going to recognize a for-
ward area when I was in it.
8. Shoot on Sight .
BRIJA WHEELED THE JEEP up a narrow road to a rocky
plateau and braked before a lonely wooden building whose
walls consisted almost entirely o windows. Across each pane
stretched an X of paper tape.
A handful of Marines came out from its wide veranda to
greet us. We were at what the Marines call a field hospital.
It consisted of eight corpsmen and a doctor, the commanding
officer. He was a slim and harried surgeon, Lieutenant
Charles Ihle, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
There was the deepest distrust in his manner as Lieuten-
ant Ihle looked at me and realized I was a woman.
"How the hell did you get here?"
Cowan answered for me placatingly, "She wants to photo-
graph how you use blood."
After supper (hot stew) I was shown through the hospital.
It had been an Okinawan school, with two classrooms open-
ing from a narrow corridor. A dozen wounded filled one
room, resting on their stretchers. The other room was for
Taut across one corner at about the height of my head,
Chief Pharmacists Mate Pat Grady had had his men lash up
a piece of copper communications wire over which he hung
a blanket. Behind it was a cot. On the cot lay Marine dunga-
"Shoot on Sight . . ." 115
rees, not newly laundered but a lot less muddy than the
ones I wore.
"They're yours," said the chief. "You're in a good place,
too. If we get infiltrated, you'll be last on the list to get your
throat cut. Just sleep in your helmet and keep your knife
out of the sheath and in your hand."
Now that I had a home and a change of clothes so far for-
ward, I wanted even less to be sent back at dawn, which fate
clearly was in the cards. Or at least in Lieutenant Ihle's
mind. But I could see that his outfit needed an unarmed
photographer about as badly as an epidemic.
I dozed off, dreading the arrival of the first jeep from the
rear in the morning.
It was a jeep engine that awakened me, but the sky be-
yond the X of tape on the window next to me still showed
the velvet of deep night.
There was shouting, something about lights, and two
authoritative rifle shots. Through the utter blackout which
had enshrouded the building cut a pair of jeep headlights
brashly on full and up. If there had been any potential in-
filtrators who hadn't known exactly where we were before,
surely they did now.
I grabbed the camera, flung aside the blanket wall and ran
out. The silhouette of the jeepits headlights had been
turned off showed it was one rebuilt to carry stretchers.
Four were being lifted from it. One man had a broken arm
which a corpsman splinted in the dark. A second had a
broken ankle which the doctor said he would set as soon as
it grew light. It was too late for the third, a lieutenant who
had led a patrol when it was ambushed.
The fourth man had a chest wound. Anybody would know
a human being couldn't breathe with such a wound. But
the Marine was breathing. Yet from what I had learned on
the hospital ships, even in the most modern operating room
116 What's A Woman Doing Here?
on earth it would be hard to keep him alive much longer.
With almost bare hands, in enforced darkness, what could
Lieutenant Ihle and Chief Pat were already doing it. The
first blood transfusion required only one flicker of a flash-
light to begin.
"Wake two more people to hold flashlights/' ordered the
lieutenant crisply to the chief.
"You only need one more," I said, setting down the
camera so I could take the flashlight from the chief's hand.
'Tm awake already/'
"If you're offering to hold a flashlight while I operate,
what makes you think you won't faint?" Lieutenant Ihle's
voice cut through the dark.
I heard myself say with perfect assurance,
"Doctor, I won't faint."
After that, of course, I couldn't. In the next two hours,
by the beams of two flashlights pointed straight down so
their glow wouldn't tempt an enemy sniper, I watched the
lieutenant save a life. It was almost as if I were back on
the ships I dimly remembered from some earlier life. But the
task here was harder. Each painstaking step took such a long
Then the final suture was neatly in place, the sound of the
Marine's breathing was nearly normal and the chief cut down
the bottle from the last transfusion. I realized both my arms
were shaking and I couldn't make them stop. Navy flash-
lights are heavy- and two hours is 120 minutes-without-end.
I looked at the dark silhouette of the wounded Marine.
"How can he stand it?" I asked, not really speaking to
The chief tossed the empty blood bottle into the pile of
cotton waste with a neat economy of motion. His voice was
rough with fatigue but his manner was almost casual. He said,
"Shoot on Sight . . ." 117
"Oh, the limit of human endurance has never been
I looked up at him in a blaze of anger at the hurt in my
arms, at the Japs, at the war and, above all, at the Marines.
"Hogwash, Chief/' I said, hearing my own voice go hoarse.
I didn't guess then that eleven years later, as I kept track
of the days and then the weeks I was being held incom-
municado, in a solitary confinement, by the Reds, I would
hear the chief as clearly as I did now. Then what he had
said would be my own touchstone of sanity, the bedrock of
truth, the sum total of all human wisdom. Don't say to your-
self you can't stand it; the limit of human endurance has
never been reached.
Oddly enough in the years between, I can't recall thinking
about the remark. But I do remember how I answered it in
anger when the chief made it.
Lieutenant Ihle, resting one hip on a blood crate a few
feet away in the darkness, spoke out then. "Girl/' came his
voice, "you go sack out and don't try to wake up for early
chow. Sometime tomorrow well help you get set up so you
can make pictures the papers can print showing how a field
hospital works on a Marine front."
I remember my last evening, ashore, because of several
presents Chief Pat gave me. Some were tangible. I was clean-
ing my camera beside the veranda steps in the sunset when
he came by and held out his open hand. In the palm lay one
.45 bullet. "Stick it in a pocket and forget it," he said off-
handedly. I took it somewhat as if I had never seen one be-
fore in my life. He leaned over. "You do understand why I'm
giving you one, don't you? That's yours."
"I'm not going to be anywhere I could get captured," I
said scornfully to show I did know.
118 What's A Woman Doing Heref
The chief relaxed into his usual mocking manner.
"Scared?' ' he asked.
"I'm not sure." This reminded me. "That's something I
wanted to talk with you about/'
The chief looked uneasy again as if he wanted to say he
was not serving the United States Marine Corps to provide
free psychoanalysis to a dame in the middle of a shooting
war. What he did say was,
"Okay, but don't start to crawl in my lap. I'm just as
scared as you are."
I didn't joke back. I told him I couldn't understand why
I was so often frightened at the wrong time. "I get scared
much worse when I'm mixed up than when something is
really dangerous. It's as though the Japs didn't have anything
to do with what scares me."
The chief seemed to be waiting for me to go on. Finally
he said, "Well?"
"Well, you got it all figured out for yourself."
"No, I haven't," I objected.
: "Sure you have. You just said it. What makes the differ-
ence is not what anybody else does. It's what you do, what
you think. Look, Dickey" he leaned over again. He went
on, making each word distinct. "Sure the Japs can kill you.
You light a butt out here after dark and you won't live to
finish smoking it. That's easy to figure.
"But only you can get yourself all shook up about it.
Instead, a person can go on doing what needs to be done, like
me giving a transfusion or you taking a picture. It's not for
anybody else to decide what happens in your own mind; you
have to choose yourself.
"Sure they can kill you. But that'sall they can do. Only
you can frighten you."
Only I can frighten me. I said it slowly out loud because
"Shoot on Sight . . /' 119
It was a brand new idea. I didn't guess how many times in
my life I would repeat it.
The chief lounged against the veranda step like a fond
uncle. He was amused. Then he stood up and began to go
into the building. Over his shoulder, he threw, "Now just
don't tell me I'm something of a philosopher/' and was gone.
He did mind reading, too. Of course that was just about
what I was going to say.
The next morning my fifth ashore Commander Cowan's
jeep drove into the courtyard of the hospital.
"Well, are you still here," he said with no question mark
at the end of it. "Go pack your cameras. You're on your way
"Back?" I asked, my face falling.
"Who mentioned that?" Cowan chuckled. "But you better
go out and sit in my jeep again if you want to stick with
the farthest forward medical unit. This was it, but it isn't
Cowan's jeep with Brija at the wheel shortly intercepted
a column of trucks on a side road. This was another field
hospital unit, and I rode in the cab of the big six-by-six that
carried the operating room gear.
The new site turned out to be far enough forward by
Commander Cowan's standards. We had to be escorted there
by combat troops and were held up by two sharp fire fights
on the way. But in two hours, the hospital began operating
on its first casualty.
Within forty-eight hours, I had completed all the pictures
I could imagine which would show the folks back home
why their blood was needed to save lives at the front.
As if my luck had been waiting for just this, the one thing
I'd worried about from the first happened almost at once.
I'd been riding the back of a jeep ambulance looking for
120 What's A Woman Doing Here?
wounded from a Japanese artillery barrage which had been
rumored to have struck our lines inland an hour earlier. As
we jounced along the road, a square-shouldered Marine MP
held up his hand. He came around to face me and without
any preamble said firmly,
"Mrs. Chapelle, you hadn't ought to ask us to do it any
I tried to match his coolness. "Marine, I don't think I
ever spoke to you in my life and I'm sure I never asked you
to do anything at all."
"That's right/' said the MP iinperturably. "You didn't.
But they come on the radio two, three times every day to
find out if we've seen you. There's an arrest-on-sight order
out for you well, the first way we got it, it was shoot-on-
sight, but I guess that was a mistake in transmission. Today
you've driven by here three times already, and I'm going to
get myself in a bind if you keep on doing it."
I knew I had a chewing-out coming, probably several of
them. But arrest-on-sight? Shoot on sight?
"You want to take me into" I struggled to find the right
word "custody right now?"
The MP drew himself up to his full height. "Not me," he
said shortly. I felt my face grow warm with pleasure.
"Well, Marine, what is it you want me to do?"
"Could you kind of see the Division PRO? Headquarters
is digging in a few miles back down the coast road."
Biija drove me there an hour later. He had something to
say on the way.
"They can't do nothin' to you. How can they bust a civilian
for going too far forward and staying too long? I mean, it'll
be okay even if you wouldn't exactly get promoted for it
inna M'rine Corps either." After these comforting words I
walked head-up into the half-wrecked building that housed
"Shoot on Sight . . ." 121
the division public relations officer, according to the painted
sign in front.
The first big room seemed to be a combat correspondent's
workroom with two typewriters set on upended ration crates.
A Marine brushed by me as I entered, and he strode to one
of them. He tilted his helmet back, wound paper into the
machine and began jerkily to hit the keys.
The sight of his face had wiped my mind clean of my own
errand. It was no dirtier than any other fighting Marine's
but there were great white wet streaks through the grime.
Tears had been coursing down his cheeks. His eyes were
unseeing even as he typed. And his big shoulders jerked.
I took a longer look and saw on thing more.
Fresh blood was seeping down each leg. His calves had
been slashed crosswise. Shrapnel. The blood puddled beneath
each worn boot heel as he wrote.
I stumbled into the next room where I could hear other
people. "Would somebody tell that Marine correspondent to
put tourniquets on his legs before he bleeds to death, even
if he hasn't finished writing his story?"
The nearest sergeant charged past me just as the combat
reporter pulled the page from the typewriter. He rose, took
one step toward the sergeant, held out his copy and crashed
in a dead faint at our feet.
Brija had a stretcher with him, and he tore off to the
hospital with the wounded Marine reporter lashed across the
front of his jeep.
I read the page that had been so important to its author.
Japanese shells had precisely worked over our division's
artillery command post. There were thirteen known dead,
more than had died in any single action during the division's
advance till this hour. The combat correspondent belonged
to the outfit, and had escaped because he was standing out-
side the command post when the barrage began.
122 What's A Woman Doing Here?
But how could the enemy have known exactly, almost
to the square yard, where the command post was?
The dispatch in my hands concluded, "Survivors theorized
that the precision of the enemy mortar barrage was due to
information perhaps unwittingly supplied the Japanese by
the only non-Americans to have observed its location at close
range hungry children of Okinawa, with whom the Marines
have shared their rations since the hour of the first landings
on L Day."
Every day I had seen ragged youngsters receive food from
the Marines. If the children then went back into the hills
where their families still hid, and met Japanese soldiers who
asked them from where it came, of course the youngsters
would remember just where they'd found Santa Glaus . . .
The sergeant seemed to see me for the first time. "When
you're not so shook, the lieutenant wants to see you, Mrs.
Chapelle. He's in the back room."
Who was the lieutenant? Did the sergeant really expect
me to be impressed with some red-tape problem after I'd
watched another reporter write his story first and worry about
binding up his wounds afterward, if at all?
But no matter how I felt, I couldn't tell myself I'd for-
gotten my promise to the MP. I'd said I'd see the Division
public relations officer, hadn't I? I walked toward the back
Behind the desk sat Lieutenant Bern Price. Slight and
dark, an Associated Press man when he wasn't in uniform, his
wit was quoted on every island in the Pacific. He looked
squarely at me and with no preamble at all said, "You're
"You can't arrest me. I came in to surrender myself/' I
answered with firm feminine logic.
This started a fairly spirited debate. But Bern's heart was
no more in it than mine. We both grinned and I sat down.
"Shoot on Sight . . /' 123
Bern said, "Don't you even want to know what you're
charged with? The story we got, you embarrassed an Ad-
It was finally arranged for me to leave the island with a
group of wounded Marines being evacuated to a small Navy
ship (LST). The ship's skipper, Lieutenant Leonard Kelly,
said I could stay aboard at least while he radioed the fleet
command that I was no longer "missing."
He received a top priority reply in ten minutes.
HOLD MRS CHAPELLE UNDER ARREST IN QUARTERS SHE IS NOT
REPEAT NOT TO LEAVE THE SHIP
"You can take my in-port cabin. I have to stay in the
weather cabin behind the bridge most of the time, anyway/'
Lieutenant Kelly said. "But what did you do?"
I couldn't bring myself to say I didn't know, so I countered
with, "How did you all hear out here that I was missing on
"Oh, you've been missing all over," he said.
The alarm klaxon opened up just then. There were Japa-
nese suicide planes overhead and we had something else to
think about beside my unaccountable prominence in fleet
For fifty-eight of the next seventy-two hours, the men of
our ship and most of the other ships in the assault fleet stayed
at their battle stations. It was the heaviest kamikaze attack
against the fleet of the entire war. More than twenty fighting-
ships, thirteen of them destroyers, were sunk or mortally
damaged. The enemy code name for the attack was "Floating
Chrysanthemum," surely the most savage bit of oriental
irony in history.
No experience in combat which I have ever known is quite
like standing before kamikazes, feeling the incredible relent-
less paralysis at the sight of a fellow human being in the dive
which must inevitably end in at least his own death. The
124 What's A Woman Doing Heref
attacks seemed a grisly roulette, the black dot of the plane
falling and skipping among the blue squares of the sea and
the gray squares of the warship decks. Our LST was not hit,
although a destroyer escort three hulls away was struck
amidships. She steamed past us half an hour later with the
scorched, naked bodies of her dead in rows on her deck.
We beached in Buckner Bay on L Day plus 13. I was told
that I could not go ashore until a Marine came for me. It
turned out to be a peculiarly unsympathetic Marine. He was
an MP with four stripes on his arm and a naked .45 in his
"You will walk off the ship directly in front of me, Ma'am/'
were his first words.
I said, "Yeah, sure, Sarge," made my farewell to the ship's
company and did as the Marine had told me.
He gestured me into a jeep with his left hand, holding
the pistol steady in his right. We rode for a few minutes.
Then, with me still directly in line with the .45 barrel, we
began to walk out toward the main runway at Yontan Air-
field. I stopped to breathe deep its new air of utter security,
remembering when the night sky over it had been full of
( 'Mo veuh Ma'am/' said the MP's voice behind me.
I turned my face back over my shoulder. "Marine, is that
With no change of pace or voice, he answered, "Yes,
"You got a shell in the chamber?"
"You got the safety off?"
I thought I'd try persuasion. I stopped short. He had
stopped short just out of broad-jump range behind me.
"Shoot on Sight. . . ." 125
"Sergeant/' I began as sweetly as possible, "you know, you
really don't need that thing."
He indicated I was to start walking again. "My command-
ing officer told me I did, Ma'am/' came the absolutely level-
I was still at gunpoint when I climbed aboard the transport
plane into which the MP gestured me.
The plane was being operated to evacuate wounded back
to Guam. There was a Navy flight nurse aboard, one of the
women with whom I had left San Francisco. I pumped her
hand and said, "Am I ever glad to see you! You're the first
white woman I've seen in seven days, two hours and thirty
We were both laughing when the unsympathetic-type MP
called up to the nurse, "You got her now?"
"We got her. She's been delivered into the Navy's hands,
The MP carefully bolstered his .45. Waiting till he was
sure I was staring straight at him, he let his impassive face
break up into a great gay grin. He waved. "So long, Dickey.
Whatever it is, you tell 'em you didn't do it!" This incredi-
ble reversal left me speechless. The plane's door shut with a
We took off and I was no longer ashore on Okinawa.
Once we landed on Guam, the Pacific Fleet was officially
lacking a woman correspondent-photographer again. Lieu-
tenant Magee relieved me of my credentials at planeside.
I was the woman who had embarrassed an Admiral after
all. And had caused concern to Admirals and generals, not
just one. When the first rumors had trickled back that there
was an American of female gender with the Marines some-
where on Okinawa, Admiral Miller had recalled my saying
often that I wouldn't be permitted to go ashore. So he had
126 What's A Woman Doing Heref
told the high command it simply could not be one of his
When it developed that it was I after all, the high com-
mand concluded my life must be in imminent danger and
moreover, there wasn't any precedent for whatever danger 1
represented to their operations. In their top-level way, they
acted as protective as the Marines among whom I was already
being shielded from imminent dangers. Hence the extreme
arrest-on-sight order (nobody would admit it had ever been
worded any differently).
Ten years later almost to the day, General Holland M.
Smith the renowned "Howlin' Mad" who had been the
ranking Marine on the Okinawa operation summed it up
to me when I met him face-to-face for the first time. I'd
remarked that I'd feel honored to stand still for one of his
famous chewings-out, however tardy. All he would say, smil-
ing, was, "We were just trying to save your life, Dickey/'
Well, he was brief about it anyway.
Back on Guam in 1945, 1 was simply told I was on my way
home. I reached Honolulu the next morning. An Air Force
freight plane took me over the lap to San Francisco, and I
boarded the train there for New York knowing that if I
wasn't a war correspondent by now, I'd never make it.
As Iwo set a standard of valor, I think Okinawa set one
of commitment. I cannot forget nor do I want to that I once
was part of a group of almost a million Americans who in
one time and place shared a single aim the land invasion
of Japan which each conceded more important than whether
he lived or died.
It was almost fifteen years from the end of the war when
I first went back to Okinawa, back to find it a busy and
essential bastion of American might. I did what everyone does
when they revisit a battle site; I tried to find again the places
"Shoot on Sight . . /' 127
I'd known. The island's outlines were all I could be sure
about. The wide paved highways traveled new routes from
the old tracks, and the great airfields bore new names.
The geographic disorientation didn't trouble me for long.
But I was terribly aware of a nostalgia for something else.
It was the feeling of commitment as we felt it on the shores
This is too important an experience to be reserved only
for people who happen to be young when their country is
engaged in warfare. If the experience were widely enough
undergone, it would make war correspondents obsolete and
unemployed. We'd have no wars to cover.
9. Chapelle Photo Team
IN A DEEP CLEFT among the skyscrapers o Philadelphia
stands the old Quaker Meeting House o the Religious
Society of Friends, the center for the world- wide projects of
the American Friends Service Committee. The building with
its gently gabled roof, plain timbers and prim windows reach-
ing up its whole height three floors seems tinderbox fragile
and likely to vanish from its incongruous place in the blink
of an eye.
Yet I know that will never happen. The tiny museum-
piece structure may be the most enduring building in Amer-
ica. To me and thousands of others, its permanence is more
certain than that of Rockefeller Center. The Meeting House
rose a long time before 1794, says the cornerstone and if
the cities of our way of life ever are reduced to radioactive
rubble, I am sure some reporter aeons from now will come
back to find the Quaker building at what was the intersection
of Twelfth and Walnut Streets still serenely standing in the
But I am getting ahead of the story. When World War II
ended, I had still lacked military re-accreditation, and my as-
sociation with the chain of magazines which had sent me to
the Pacific had come to a dramatic or, at least, a conclusive
end. Of my photographs showing blood transfusions in battle,
Chapelle Photo Team 129
a fastidious young woman editor had snapped as she handed
them back to me,
"You ought to have known better than to make these,
Dickey. You know we can't use them. The wounded look
too too dirty."
To which I'd said, of course, everything that needed saying
and perhaps a few things that did not. At any rate, when I'd
left her office I was no longer a contributor to her magazine.
This outcome did nothing to ease my indignation. Whatever
suffering men could undergo in the name of the folks back
home, surely anyone could endure to merely look at!
However, in a few months the magazine Cosmopolitan
printed the unprettied pictures of the wounded, and the
then-fledgling Seventeen took me on as their photographer.
For the girls' publication, I'd traveled in thirty states and to
Alaska when, in 1947, its managing editor, Alice Thompson,
a Quaker herself, sent me to cover the work camp at Hazel
Green; which brought me to John Kavanaugh, the Quaker
associate responsible for public relations of the Service
Mrs. Thompson had suggested I make a gift of a set of
the pictures to the Service Committee. I had photographed
the dozen campersnot one a Quaker, incidentally, and of
every color of skin picking beans, operating the boiler,
canning; their silent grace period before the breakfast table,
the morning sunlight reflecting from their scrubbed young
As John Kavanaugh bent over the enlargements one by
one, he seemed pleased. When he looked up from the last,
he said, "We have so many of these work camps and other
projects in Europe. I wish someone would take pictures like
these over there/'
I flushed with delight and heard myself say, "That's easyl
All you have to do is send Tony and me to Europe and we'll
130 What's A Woman Doing Here?
make them." Then I almost clapped my hand over my
mouth. I thought I'd made a bad mistake offering to serve
a peace church, the most dedicated of pacifist entities. I'd
been no conscientious objector to warfare; Fd put on a
uniform and so had Tony twice.
But John was nodding gravely. "If you find you now em-
brace the testimony of non-violence and are willing to serve
as volunteers abroad, we'll send you. Poland, Germany,
Austria, Hungary" he began outlining an itinerary.
In the six years that followed my first conversation with
John Kavanaugh, Tony and I served as a photographing and
reporting team for him and for the public relations directors
of a dozen humanitarian agencies. We all wanted to remind
people what havoc the war left, what terrible problems re-
mained. The workaday pictures we'd been creating pro-
fessionally in New York seemed often to further the gossamer
illusion of global peace and plenty.
We worked in almost every country of Europe and the
Middle East. Sometimes, as when we were a Quaker team, the
basis was called "volunteer" and we were fed and housed
on location by the agencies we served, but not otherwise
salaried. On other assignments like those for CARE, the
United Nations Children's Emergency Fund and the Save
the Children Federation, we were simply reimbursed for the
costs of our work and travel. When we were employed by
the Technical Cooperation Administration of the U.S. De-
partment of State (the first Point Four agency) we were paid
on a straight professional contract. But while the rewards
never permitted us to provide for our old age, neither were
we required to spend money we didn't have. And what we
watched at first hand were tremendously moving events the
reconciliation of age-old enemies in Europe and the coining
of American help to the lands of the Bible and Omar
Chapelle Photo Team 131
The wreckage resulting from man's inhumanity to man
whether from the time of Genghis Khan or Adolf Hitler was
the litany I wrote and the subject I photographed. And the
magnitude of relief devised never matched the magnitude of
In 1949, in connection with our work, Tony and I had
founded the American Voluntary Information Services Over-
seas AVISO to help supply information for publication in
the United States brotherhood projects. I became its inheritor
a few years later after its funds were exhausted, so I guess
today I'm the only individual I know who actually owns their
own incorporated, recognized, global relief agency. Not that
AVISO is functioning, you understand. It's just a set of
corporate papers in my file cabinet awaiting reactivation (I
learned that kind of language from the lawyer who volun-
tarily, of course incorporated it for us). But I haven't given
up on the project yet. AVISO lives as a jangling charm on
the key ring I've now carried through two wars and four
That postwar time overseas I remember now as a kaleido-
scope of people unfading, the way they looked and sounded,
vivid as yesterday.
Deep-etched in my mind is a picture from Poland, this
one inside a jerry-built hostel rising over the sea of ruins
which marks the old ghetto in Warsaw. The scene centers
on a sturdy Jesuit priest surrounded by ragged orphans. But
these are not the children of any appealing stereotype; these
are insane youngsters, most of them driven out o their minds
by having had to look on while first their neighbors and
then their parents fought and died against some of Hitler's
I have just come into the children's messhall to photograph
132 What's A Woman Doing Here?
them drinking American powdered milk from tin cups. I
expect to hear the pathetic question of Polish children
"How far down may I drink?" Warsaw youngsters know
there is never going to be enough to eat in the world again.
But these children are not asking it. Some groan but they
do not speak. A few grimace but they do not smile. They are
impassive till I flash my first bulb.
Then pandemonium breaks loose. A dozen of the forty
children are screaming. A flashing light signifies gunfire
and the death of someone close to them.
I almost sob to the priest, "I'm so sorry, Father I didn't
think I'll go at once"
The father straightens himself among the inhuman noises
from the tiny strained throats and says to me, gutterally
with the accents of an infantry sergeant in combat, "You
will go nowhere. Take another picture."
I do, and again terror strikes the children. But fewer this
"Keep on taking pictures until I tell you to stop/' orders
the priest. After ten of the most sickening moments of my
life, the room is quiet again, even when a bulb flashes. The
father relaxes and smiles benignly at me. "I am sorry if I
have been using you, daughter," he begins. "But you are
the first stranger these children have seen since the fighting
ended. I thought it was time they learned that strangers and
lights do not always mean bloodshed. I could never teach
them about flashbulbs because I have none for my own little
The set of photographs I made that day under his orders
were given by the Quakers to the United Nations and have
become part of the photographic files of many relief agencies,
because the naked faces so plainly tell of fear and want. The
last time I heard of them being used was in 1959 during the
Chapelle Photo Team 133
observance of World Refugee Year, when enlargements
larger-than-life were exhibited in London.
Scenes of need behind the Iron Curtain are matched in
irony at least by some of my recollections from our side. One
is from Naples in 1949. Tony and I with a young Italian
college student who speaks English are standing on the lip
of the infamous Merginelli caves, still the only home of some
of the most destitute people of Europe.
The double granite arches, each high as a cathedral, face
outward over the cherished view of the Neapolitan bay, and
curve inward over an acreage of foul rubble which shelters
two hundred families. Crushed against the cliff at the end
of a lane floored with rich brown mud, the sad community
murmurs and stinks in the August sun.
A ragged mother stops washing her baby out of a chipped
dish pan set on the earth. She speaks to me with a movie
starlet's proud intonation.
The baby howls and wriggles over its bare hunger-swollen
stomach and I say to the college boy at my side, "1 thought
I thought she asked me if I'd like to see her clippings."
"She did," he nods.
She nods too and pads on her bare feet into the packing-
case cubicle behind her. There are three beds and a wooden
cross and a crooked table in it. She forces open the warped
drawer of the table and takes out a clipping from a newspaper
of a year before. In spite of the dog ears and the breaks where
it has been folded and unfolded, the article still is legible.
It describes the cave dwellers and the woman beside me,
telling of a brown window drape from which she had im-
provised her only skirt. She still wears a brown rag around
her middle. I look inquiringly. "Same skirt,'* she nods.
Her neighbors are crowding around now. A tiny woman,
gray with rock dust, ducks under my elbow. "See my clip-
134 What's A Woman Doing Here?
ping?" She holds out a magazine. It too is worn and contains
a rotogravure section. In one of the pictures, she appears
holding a naked baby. While I decipher the caption, she
leaves and comes back holding a baby with a dirty wisp of
shirt over its chest. "Same baby," she says delightedly.
The women tell me there is another American lady who
is visiting the caves today. She is the woman interviewer for
the United Nations Children's Fund sound recording unit,
sitting at the moment in a canvas chair in the shade of a
blue sedan with a sheaf of copy in her lap.
Seeing her, I am reminded that I too have a professional
problem. Tony and I are planning to make a motion picture
sequence here for the Save the Children Federation, and we
will need to bring in a source of light to illuminate the cave
interior. We will drive a generator truck up the mud road
because most of the cave dwellers live without light of any
kind (sunlight reaches in only a few yards). But there is a low
arch over the road. Too low for the truck? I go to measure
it, walking down to the arch.
As I stand under it trying to find the tape measure in my
camera case, a quiet little man comes up. A club foot in a
hideously torn shoe emerges from the fringe at the bottom
of his trousers. His upper garment had been a shirt before
the sleeves and collar wore off; it has no buttons any more
and a safety pin holds it across his bony chest. His stubbled
cheeks fall against the places where his teeth once had been
and his eyes are rimmed with bright red.
But his expression is serene, even helpful. "Excuse, lady,"
he rasps calmly, "but would it help if I told you how Warner
Brothers got their big truck in here when they came to take
our pictures? They had to take the whole top off." This last
is said with great satisfaction; my ragged friend knows
Warner Brothers do not take the top off the truck for an
unimportant film subject.
Chapelle Photo Team 135
As the day wears on, I find the explanation for the paradox
of poverty and publicity. The caves are unqualifiedly the
most dreadful human habitation on the continent (1 feel I've
seen enough to judge). So of course every journalist and
social worker comes to them as we had.
But the outcome is bitter farce. While every appeal for
Italy's poor may logically begin in the caves and every docu-
rnentarian on the subject may find a goldmine of piteous
source-material the cave dwellers cannot benefit. Officially
no community exists. Its inhabitants have no mail address,
belong to no local government, live under the protection of
no local politician. So relief supplies sent to them as a result
of publicity given their condition cannot be delivered to
them. These go to the poor of the commune of Naples, no
less deserving or hungry but less tragically sheltered. "After
you have taken our pictures and gone on your way, there
will be nothing for us again/" a fourteen-year-old boy who
has his own clippings tells me at sunset.
Months later, I learned he had been right. The gifts our
reports brought had indeed gone to desperately needy Italian
orphans but through organized charities as the law requires,
and not to those whose existence was so shameful it could
not be officially recognized at all.
My last vivid recollection of Europe lacks any happy end-
ing. But it was ironically prophetic.
This recollection is of a living room in Budapest on a
Sunday noon in May of 1948. It is a room not unlike those
in the house back in Milwaukeeoverstuffed chairs and
couches, a family-size table with an embroidered spread.
But this room is disordered and there are too many people
in it. Eight are members of the Quaker relief team working
in Hungary, sole survivors of all the relief efforts from the
West which had begun there when the war ended. Com-
136 What's A Woman Doing Here?
munist strong man Matyos Rakosi, the Red puppet dictator,
has thrown out all the others. The Americans' job is to
supervise the distribution of supplementary food from the
United States to tubercular college students, and used cloth-
ing to war-destituted families.
Tony and I are standing side by side, our backs to a bay
window overlooking a quiet side street. Facing us is a slim
smug young man wearing a brown corduroy jacket, the only
Hungarian among us. He is our "guide and interpreter"
supplied by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our
official hosts during the ten days we have been photographing
the Quaker team's work here. We have had no angel to help
us; we arrived by air and traveled outside Budapest by jeep.
Now we are scheduled to leave for Paris by commercial plane
that same afternoon. But Estvan Nagy, he of the brown
jacket, has brought news for us.
In carefully-phrased English, so we will be sure to under-
stand, he tells us that we may go but the film we have shot
may not. The Ministry of the Interior, which outranks our
sponsors in Foreign Affairs, has just issued a confiscation
order for every piece of film we have, developed or un-
'It's really no problem," he finishes offhandedly. "Just
give it to me and I'll see that they get it."
Tony says out of his diaphragm, "No"
Estvan looks shocked. "You must," he insists.
Tony rocks up to his toes and though he begins in a low
voice it wells to a bass organ note before he is done speaking.
"Young man, you go right back and tell those people we'll
jump in the Danube and swim home with the film before
we'll surrender one roll. We're leaving and when we do the
"film goes with us"
Estvan looks deeply troubled, falls silent. But one of the
other Americans steps between him and Tony. "Thee is
Chapelle Photo Team 137
right, Tony. And if thee swims, we will all swim along. But
if we go what about distributing the food and clothing?
Who will see that it goes to the colleges and the country
people except as a gift from the Minister of the Interior?"
It is very quiet in the room. We are all thinking of the
same thinghow the students and peasants thank us for
the tiny food packages and old clothing coming from outside
their world. They garland our jeep with flowers till we can't
see through the windshield to drive.
Two hours of spirited discussion follow. It is the sense of
the meeting that the Quaker team cannot remain in Hungary
if we two, as temporary members of it, openly defy the gov-
ernment's most powerful ministry.
As I count the film roll by roll into Estvan's eager hands,
he needles triumphantly, "After all, you mustn't hold this
against my government. How do we know you aren't spies?"
I hear myself saying clearly, in a perfect mockery of Tony's
earlier manner, "Young man, you know I'm not a spy. But if
you ever see me in Hungary again, you better shoot first.
Because I will be/ 3
The words echoed in my heart eight years later when the
Hungarian secret police did capture me on the soil of their
country. But the faith I showed in Red official machinery was
not justified by anything that happened then. In all the weeks
the interrogator from the Ministry of the Interior questioned
me, he never did unearth Estvan's dossier about me. So I
was never taxed with my own words (and somehow, I don't
remember that I brought them up, either).
Horace Byrnes, a lanky agronomist from South Dakota, is
the only man I've ever known who stopped three thousand
people from becoming citizens of Soviet Russia. He is the
man most deeply etched in my memory of the last task of
the Chapelle overseas photo team. Our assignment was to
138 What's A Woman Doing Heref
describe in pictures the work of Point Four technicians, most
of them sent from the United States to countries of the
Middle East. In Iran in 1952, Horace was one of them.
He was the first American technical expert sent to remote
Azerbaijan, the most northern province of Iran and one
which shares a common border with Russia. The assignment
was his first as a Point Four man. His instructions had been
to survey the needs of the wheat farmers reported victimized
by drought, and then come back to Tehran, fourteen hours'
driving to the southeast, to develop a long-range program to
improve the yield of the provincial wheatlands if, of course,
this could be done.
The last words his chief told him were, "Now don't go off.
half-cocked just because your emotions get the best of you.
It's a hungrier country than where you come from and it
always has been. Drought or no drought. You'll start pitying
people. Remember, we can't help them overnight so keep
Horace almost at once ran into the drought-stricken area.
At first he resisted the tug on his heart. But the hunger he
saw was much more terrible than the rumors back in Tehran
had indicated. Horace feared that if he didn't move swiftly
to succor its victims, there wouldn't be any victims left to
succor. The farmers were not just sitting on their parched
earth waiting for starvation. They were leaving for the far
side of the border mountain range where the drought had
not hit nearly so hard as on their own. That far side was the
soil of Soviet Russia.
Horace reminded himself not to dramatize their plight,
and started back for Tehran to develop the long-range plan,
to procure the drought-resistant seed from the United States
and to return another year to Azerbaijan with it. He was
sure this was what his new chief had ordered him to do.
Anyway, it would prove he could keep his head.
Chapelle Photo Team 139
But on the first lap of his trip he offered a lift in his jeep
to a couple with two children he found stumbling along the
roadside. They were Miriam and Ali Akhbar. As they rode
along together, he made some remark to them that his vehicle
was almost as good as a horse in the jagged mountains of the
province. At the word horse Miriam burst into tears.
"We had a horse," Ali explained. "We're leaving our land
now because we ate him. He was the last food we had/*
("That last line plain did for me," Horace drawled to us,
reaching back for the slang of his own Midwest.)
Right then he decided he was sure to have the shortest
career on record as a Point Four man but it would be
He drove hard and far across Azerbaijan to an area where
there had been no drought. He spent every nickel of his
available departmental budget buying local seed and renting
enough trucks to carry it back to the border area. There he
told the farmers he would show them how to grow better
wheat if they would agree to apply his methods of cultivation
to the seed he proposed to furnish them. "I know I was going
to be fired but I still didn't want people calling Point Four
a relief agency for farmers who had been forced to eat their
seed-grain. So I put the whole thing on the basis of a scientific
experiment in agricultural technique."
At this point in his story, Horace points to the fields flow-
ing by the roadside as our jeep rolls on. Rising up the slopes
and stretching as far as we can see is the ripe wheat from
Horace's experiment, about to be harvested. With careful
planting and cultivation andthe U.S. Government claimed
no hand in this an adequate rainfall, the wheat crop golden
all around us is one of the most lush we have seen anywhere.
Horace brakes the jeep beside a whitewashed house of
earth and stone. Before he can tell us about it, he is over-
whelmed by children who crawl in his lap and sit on his
140 What's A Woman Doing Here?
shoulders. An Iranian farm couple, in shabby but bright-
colored field clothes, run out of the house to pump his hand.
"The Akhbars," he finally manages to say, telling them in his
broken Farsi who we are.
Later that festive evening, after I have photographed the
wheat crop I jokingly ask Miriam if she and AH have begun
saving to buy another horse so the next time they decide to
emigrate across the mountains to Russia, they will not need
to hitch-hike part of the way on a U.S. jeep.
Horace translates and Miriam covers her mouth with her
hand, rocked with laughter. Her mirth subsides and she be-
come quite grave, shaking her head with certainty. "We will
never go. I know the face of Allah looks upon this side now.
Who can tell if He ever gazes on the other?"
Which should be the last word in the tale of the farmers
of Azerbaijan and the American Point Four man. Well, not
quite the last word. The U.S. Government never did fire
Horace. They promoted him instead, and the last time I saw
him it was in Ankara, Turkey, five years after our first meet-
ing. He now headed an agricultural mission to the Baghdad
Pact countries. I asked him what kind of work he was doing
and he said gaily, "Sending young aid experts into rural
Asia Minor and telling them, 'Now don't you go off half-
cocked just because your emotions get the better of you/
Sometimes" now he sounded wistful ''they listen to me."
Tony's and my work as a photo team ended early in 1953,
and soon after we came to what I guess is called the parting
of the ways both personally and professionally. We were
separated in 1955 and our marriage dissolved the following
summer. We had been married fifteen years.
Several times television interviewers and people who hear
me lecture have asked me the same question about marriage.
Chapelle Photo Team 141
Can a woman be both a foreign correspondent and a wife?
My answer isnever at the same time.
I can't make the reason sound sentimental although I'm.
sure it has to do with the heart and not the head. But good
correspondents are created out of the simple compulsion to
go see for themselves what is happening. There's compe-
tition for their assignments, and the odds are heavily in favor
of the man or woman who yields to the fewest distractions
in obeying the compulsion. It's a twenty-four-hour a day task
till a story's done and you cannot know as you start covering
an event where it may lead you. Till it's done, people you
love always receive less evidence of love than the correspond-
ent wants to give them. My mother's formula that human
problems are solved by loving more and in no other way-
is, I'm sure, the correct one. Some marriages survive this
deprivation indefinitely but mine (and most of them) did not.
For my first professional effort by myself, I remembered
some unfinished business from World War II my re-accred-
itation to the Armed Forces of the United States. I began
by calling on General Shepherd in Washington. He was now
Commandant of the Marine Corps, and his erstwhile Chief of
Staff on Okinawa, General MacQueen, commanded recruit
training in San Diego, California.
Their welcome was no less cordial in peace than it had
been under fire. The commandant arranged for me to cover
the field maneuvers of his Test Unit One, a battalion re-
hearsing helicopter assault tactics which were fresh off the
TOP SECRET list. General MacQueen invited me to cover boot
training "as no reporter man or woman has ever seen it,"
by actually pacing alongside a drill instructor not for a few
hours but for a few weeks.
To this day, I am not sure what I was able to do for the
Corps with the reports and photographs I made then. But
142 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I do know what the Corps did for me. They taught me bone-
deep the difference between a war correspondent and a girl
reporter, even one willing to say she wants to go forward
because the remark rings like a bell.
In 1954, my father, characteristically unreconciled to his
retirement by his company even at sixty-eight, had passed
away. The onset of my mother's fatal illness came while I
was on my way home from California. She moved to New
York for treatment, and for a time shared an apartment over-
looking the East River with her sisters, my aunts Louise
and Georgette. But none of us or the doctor could help her
any more, and she did not live to go back to Milwaukee.
The spring of 1956 found me no longer a foreign corre-
spondent but a career girl. I was director of public infor-
mation for the Research Institute of America, one of the
country's largest business advisory organizations. My job was
to publicize their economic surveys and forecasts.
The Institute's founder, Leo Cherne, also was the founder
of a global relief agency, the International Rescue Commit-
tee. The I.R.C. helps people anywhere on earth who are
victims of terrorism Hitler's, Stalin's, Khrushchev's (and
today Castro's). So the committee's beneficiaries were always
people in real trouble, like those I'd known when working
for the Quakers.
The Hungarian revolution involved the outfit that paid
my salary and the I.R.C. and on the same side.
Two weeks after it began, early in November of 1956,
when both the committee and the editors of Life were look-
ing for a photographer familiar with refugee problems to
cover the escapee movement across the Iron Curtain into
Austria, they didn't have to look very far. I took a leave of
absence from the institute, and was flown to Vienna represent-
Chapelle Photo Team 143
Ing both Life and the I.R.C. Before I left for Idlewild Air-
port to board the plane on my way to Austria, I made sure
I would have enough time to do a thorough job. I asked for
and was granted a whole two weeks.
10. Missing Behind the Iron Curtain
FLAT, FROZEN, FAINTLY STARLIT, the border between Austria
and Hungary lay across the lowlands out beyond Vienna.
In the darkness east of the farm town of Andau, it was marked
for miles by the high black banks of the Einser Canal. The
water reached a dozen yards across, no challenge to a summer
But this was the cold November in the winter of Hungary's
revolution. Swirling black with chunks of ice grinding on its
surface, the canal stood as a final terrible barrier to freedom
for thousands of men, women and children fleeing before the
Russian tanks. It flowed too fast to freeze and only a handful
of oak-tough young men ever tried to enter it. It could be
crossed by narrow footbridges which the Red border guards
had somehow neglected to destroy, but these were few and
far apart. Or the escapees could evade the canal, circling an
elbow bend where the border short-cut across a swamp
marked by the black lacy silhouettes of wild reeds and leaf-
less poplar trees. No path led through that swamp. Once in
its dark embrace, the Hungarians stumbled over tree roots,
fell knee-deep in freezing slush and sometimes were lost
within a hail of the goal toward which they had been walking
for a dozen hours the cornfields of free Austria.
A track made by farm carts led through the fields from
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 145
Andau, dead ending against the canal bank. Here Austrian
farmers had marked the border with a roaring fire. Hour
after hour and night after night, they and their families
came out to keep it flaming and sparking high, a beacon and
a place of welcome. A few steps away stood a little stone
building where tools had once been stored. The women made
tea there now, pots and kettles and wash buckets of it, enough
so every escapee who found the fire could be given a steam-
The cart track led five miles back to the village, ending at
a two-lane asphalt road which was the highway from Vienna.
After they had drunk their tea, most of the refugees had to
set out again and walk this last long lap. The ice-slicked track
was too rough and tortuous for any vehicle that rolled on
rubber tires; only tractors and horse-drawn carts could use
it. These shuttled slowly, incessantly, back and forth between
the village and the fire, providing a lift for the exhausted.
They were driven by the farmers themselves, and there were
so few only the women, the infants and the injured could
ride from the border back to Andau.
Perhaps seven hundred yards farther east rose a fearful
backdrop to the scene. This was the line the Red border
guards manned and from where their patrols were sent out.
It was a blaze of rockets, machine gun tracer fire and rifle
flashes against the sky, a picket fence of chained lightning.
The figures of the escaping men and women bulked black
against the bright lines and rocket bursts in the air. Not till
they were close to the fire could you tell that they were pant-
ing, hurting, stumbling people.
I'd come on the campfire myself only minutes before, after
driving down from Vienna in pursuit of a rumor I'd heard
first under the crystal chandeliers of the Hotel Bristol. It
had been said that all the border areas close by the capital
were at last tightly sealed by zealous Russian troops but
146 What's A Woman Doing Here?
that whole areas of the Burgenland Province, an hour's
driving southward, were being inundated by waves of fleeing
Hungarians, many children among them dying of the cold.
The first refugees from Hungary I saw were a family
a woman walking on muddied high heels, her stockings in
tatters, a man carrying a baby in his arms while another child
slumped across his bowed shoulders. Behind them came a
tall boy and a slim girl, she sobbing openly with the effort
to make another step.
Centering the family in the camera finder, my back to
the fire, I recognized their faces. I had seen faces like these
last on Okinawa after an artillery barrage. Humans too far
beyond the limit-of-human-endurance-which-has-never-been-
reached to be quite human at all. God, how they must have
wanted to get away!
Then they were embracing the women who brought them
the mugs of tea, and there were deep low sobs and sounds
of greeting in Magyar. But amazingly few words, really; no
one had the strength or self-control to say them. The family
moved off almost like wraiths toward the cart trail.
The next refugees to stumble up to the fire were a group
of young men. "This isreally Austria?" gasped one in broken
German. He sat down shakily against a rock to sip his tea.
Then he couldn't rise again. It developed that the ankle on
which he had just walked seven miles cross-country had been
broken when he leaped a ditch at the beginning of his trek.
Two tractor drivers lifted him into a cart and he fainted
from the pain.
Now a girl ran by in the flickers of firelight. A college
student in high heels, fur-trimmed boots and a scarf whose
fringes flew back from her disordered bangs. She was running
the wrong way out into the unfathomable darkness with its
far fiery horizon.
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 147
She cried in German with a bell-like voice,
' "But Hans, there are people lost out there! We must we
must find them before they freeze to deathl"
A dozen steps behind her ran a boy, the one to whom she
had been speaking. He too was a teen-ager and surely no
farmer suede oxfords, a checked overcoat, a felt hat.
He shouted, "Liza! Come back here! It is dangerous out
there! You can get killed!"
The girl's light fleeing steps did not falter. Now she was
at the edge of the circle of light from the fire, and in a second
would be lost to sight. The boy stopped shouting and began
to run hard for the spot from which she was disappearing.
Before he reached it I discovered that I'd begun to run,
too. The icy tufts of grain stubble made it hard to move
swiftly and I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep up with
the boy. But Liza ran out of breath and as she paused to rest
Hans was grasping her arm.
When she regained breath to speak, she said, "Hans! We
must go on!"
He answered her, "Liza, I tell you, youll be killed! We're
in Hungary already!" Both were barely speaking over a
whisper but with such intensity they might have been
I was suddenly aware that we'd come a long way from the
fire in our dash. And I wasn't alone either. A man in a
raglan overcoat and a dark beret was standing beside me,
catching his breath.
If there were to be only four of us populating this dark
icy hostile world, I thought we ought to know each other.
"I'm Dickey Chapelle. Life magazine. What's your name?"
I said it in English. I didn't care what he replied but I
badly wanted the comfort of another human voice. It came
almost at my ear.
148 What's A Woman Doing Here?
At this instant, Liza broke free and began to run forward
again. Hans ran after her. I chased Hans, and the man who
had just said his name was Michener continued to cover the
rear of our little patrol at an easy lope.
Liza dashed a shorter distance this time before she tired.
Again we all halted, Hans beside her and Michener beside
me. I suddenly realized that, beret or no beret, he had under-
stood English. He was no foreigner. His name wasn't exactly
common this must be Jim Michener. I'd heard he was in
Austria for The Reader's Digest.
I looked back at the fire, shrunk almost to a spot of yellow
on the horizon behind us, and forward to the sporadic wall
of rockets and tracer. It was high and close enough now so
we ought to start dropping onto our stomachs when we
halted. I remembered from Okinawa how anti-aircraft tracer
A human noise froze us all where we stood a woman's
hysterical sobbing. The swamp rose to our side now and
there were people in it. We moved in, four abreast. We came
on them almost at once. A dozen black forms, huddled to-
gether, every snow-blurred line of their group telling of
exhaustion and bewilderment. Liza spoke first, her girl's
voice almost shocking because it was so fresh and young.
"Austriais only five hundred yards away." We walked
them back to the fire.
Focusing by its light, I photographed first slight Clara
Donath, her shabby coat torn and her headshawl hoarf roasted.
(Donath is what the family told me to call them because it
was not their name.) She had been the person whose sob had
reached us from behind the frozen swamp reeds. She had
made no other sound as we made our way back across the
fields. Her husband, Istvan, carrying a baby in a blue blanket
and a brief case with a broken handle, had gasped out a pray-
erful thanks to Liza and Hans. But when they knew they
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 149
were really safe on free soil, Clara reached for my arm. I
thought she was falling and quickly tried to grasp her, sad
that I knew no words of reassurance in Magyar.
"No no, she is all right," interposed another refugee,
speaking German. "She just wants to tell you she is ashamed
that you have seen a Hungarian woman's tears. She knows
that she is" he groped for the word, found it "she is
lucky. She is here. She is out of there."
For a moment I was not in Austria at all. I was back on
the deck of the hospital ship offshore at Iwo Jima. All I
could do was to hug Clara and hope she would not see the
tears of an American woman.
Then her husband, staggering a little, started to put their
baby into her arms. I gestured to show I'd be glad to hold
the child while the two rested. He passed his burden to me.
I leaned against the wheel of a waiting farm cart with the
baby in my arms. Hans came over to stand beside me. He
translated, "Her father tells you she is only seven months
old. Her name is Georgika." I looked at the baby bundled
in the thick blankets, the inner one painstakingly feather-
stitched along the edges as my grandmother had once taught
me to do.
With one finger, Hans moved aside the blanket corner so
we could see the baby's face. It was tiny and clenched and
still. And to me, momentous. I wondered if ever again in the
little girl's life would she just by her beingepitomize the
hopes of so many brave people as she did in that instant.
I was concerned with something else, though. Why didn't
she wriggle or cry? The tiny motions of her breathing were
very quick, but her eyes did not open.
The farm cart was ready for loading, and Clara Donath
with Georgika in her arms were tenderly bedded into a
Later that night, back in the building at Andau which once
150 What's A Woman Doing Heref
had been the village social center, I found the family again.
The scene here was a classic one, classic in its ugliness.
For me it was the hallmark of postwar Europe Poland,
Germany, France. Another overburdened refugee center,
typical and terrible.
There was no floor to be seen any more. The space where
Andau revelers had danced after every wedding was now
solid with people, hip to hip. They were sleeping, sitting,
talking, eating from their brief cases, taking off their boots
and socks and outer jackets, examining each other for frost-
bite and sprains, massaging and bandaging their injuries.
There was no shelter for another person here, yet scores
were entering the warmth and light of the building. At each
new influx, everyone just moved a little closer to everyone
else so the newcomers would not need to face the crushing
disappointment of another moment in the cold out of doors.
The Donaths were in a corner. I tried to make my way to
them without stepping on others. I could see something was
wrong. Clara's face was white, her eyes enormous. Hans stood
beside them and an older man, too, wearing a warm over-
coat and dry boots. He was shaking his head and packing up
a little black bag. A doctor's bag.
Hans told me what had happened. The rumor we'd heard
in Vienna was it only this same afternoon? had sad sub-
stance. Little Georgika was the eleventh baby the village
doctor said he had diagnosed as suffering from pneumonia
after the long hours' of being carried across the icy fields.
At the word pneumonia, I stopped taking notes and
looked up sharply. I recalled the million dollars' worth of
penicillin given to the Hungarian freedom fighters by the
Charles Pfizer company through the International Rescue
Committee only a few days previously. What had happened
to it? And for the first time, the question flashed across my
mind if little Georgika had been injected with penicillin
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 151
before she was brought through the snowy night, would she
now be hovering between life and death?
Back at the fire near Andau, the night after the Donaths
crossed, hundreds of people were crossing. The earth of No
Man's Land, under a blizzard, sometimes seemed itself to
move as a wave of black figures stumbled toward us. Out
among them, often pacing backward in the snow to frame
groups of escapees in a single photograph as they moved in-
exorably out of Hungary, I took pictures till my flash holder
was too wet to fire, then opened my notebook and tried to
set down words to describe the scene, this historic instant in
my time when thousands of flesh-and-blood human beings
were suffering and straining beside me to escape being
governed by terror.
After midnight, the flood of people ebbed. Jim Michener
and I were standing with Barrett McGurn of The New York
Herald-Tribune a little back from the crowd around the fire.
McGurn's was a face made for deep laughter but now it was
hard to recognize. He spoke for all of us. "I can't take any
more of this/'
No one had done more to tell the story than he, and no
one was to do more than Michener in The Bridge at Andau.
But as McGurn spoke I knew I was not a reporter any more
either. What words or pictures could communicate the mass
Numbly I turned away.
For the next ten days, like most correspondents, I rested
when it was light because few refugees crossed by day, and
worked when it was dark because as many as six thousand
came over the border in one night. Often I commuted into
Hungary with other news reporters or guides or refugees.
We never became casual about it, but there was no other
152 What's A Woman Doing Here?
way to tell of the escapee movement but to see it. And it
was not happening on Austrian earth.
During those days, chunky Carl Hartmann of the Associ-
ated Press, his tight-curled brown hair bare to the snow,
made the little bridge beside the tower famous as any spot
on earth when he dubbed it Freedom Bridge even though
it lay seventeen-hundred yards into Hungary. And it was here
of course that Jim Michener, guiding refugees, gathered
most of the material for The Bridge at Andau. In his great
overcoat and tiny beret, he carried dozens of children across
the last lap of their journey, often with his free arm around
the shoulders of a tiring adult. The two men must have
searched out hundreds of people, Michener comforting them
with his plain gruff Quaker speech and Hartmann giving
reassurance in his crisp professional accents. Neither man
spoke Magyar, yet they were the real ambassadors who
showed our coacern for the Hungarians.
One of my photographs of escapees near the bridge was
printed as the full-page lead in Life. I received a word of
praise by cable from the chief of the magazine's foreign de-
partment. But it wasn't as precious, really, as what Mike
Rougier said to me.
Mike was the Life staff photographer who a few weeks
before had made the greatest pictures in print to this day,
in my opinion, showing the obscenity of real violencethe
crowd lynching a Hungarian secret policeman, an AVO, in
I assumed Mike had "come to Vienna to relieve me be-
cause refugees were the big story of the hour. But that
wasn't what happened. "You go right back on the border/'
he said. "I'll go on covering the Budapest end." I saw him
and another Life staff man, John Mulliken, off by car from
curbside in front of the Hotel Bristol. They had the proper
credentials including visas for their drive across Hungary.
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 153
But they asked me to notify the American Embassy in Vienna
that they were "missing" unless I heard from them within
seventy-two hours. They were leaning on a frail reed. Be-
fore the deadline passed I was the one of us three "missing."
After their car disappeared in Vienna traffic, I interviewed
a group of young Hungarian escapees who said we Americans
probably would call them Corrigans after the wrong-way
flier. They regularly walked back and forth between Austria
and Hungary. Night after night, they moved onto Red
earth and led out their neighbors and their families. Some
brought through whole parties of escapees every three days
virtually on a schedule.
"Nobody pays any attention to us going the wrong way.
We just move where the Reds don't imagine any refugee
would want to go that is, wherever the rockets and machine
guns are the thickest. You see, lots of the weapons are em-
placed to fire up in the air. The tracer showing against the
sky makes a kind of traffic control. It drives people who don't
know any better into the darkest fields. So that's where the
Red patrols really keep watch and where they round up the
I had seen this happen to more than fifty people one morn-
ing when they were only steps from Austria. Michener and
I had crowded hidden and helpless while they were marked
off inside a ring of submachine guns. (To execution? Im-
prisonment? Or to become slave laborers inside Russia? Who
I wasn't surprised to hear that Red gunfire near the actual
border was aimed high. It had to be. In more than ten nights'
searching, I'd never found a freshly wounded refugee. I
knew we in the States hurt more people with blank ammuni-
tion during our military training exercises than were being
injured by the Reds' live fire near Andau.
A refugee I'd originally met in No Man's Land brought
154 What's A Woman Doing Here?
me another report. He said that while he had been back in
Budapest the previous morning, helping his father and
brother escape, he had seen the relief supplies from the
International Red Cross arrive. He had watched them un-
load into a government warehouse.
No freedom fighter could receive Red Cross supplies, he
said. Because the trucks of the International Red Cross
could legally enter Hungary only on the invitation of the
established-that is, the Red-regime, the distribution of
their contents was under the control of the Communists
from the minute they crossed the border.
What about the million dollars' worth of penicillin Fd
been sent to Austria in part to cover? By what route was it
on its way to anti-Reds?
I visited the Vienna warehouse where it had been stored.
A tiny fraction had been issued to Vienna hospitals for treat-
ing ill refugees-like little Georgika. But most of the medi-
cine was still there in all its poignant bulk. The Rescue
Committee was not putting it on Red Cross trucks. Negotia-
tions for its delivery without the risk that it might fall
straight into the wrong hands had been begun, but nobody
knew how long these would take.
I asked the Corrigans if they knew anything about the
"A little," replied a slight dark one named Oli, smiling
orimly. He had been an engineering student at the Uni-
versity of Budapest. With a friend acting as translator, he
went on, "At least, I know about ten pounds of it. I'm taking
it across on my back next time I go into Hungary. If every-
body going the wrong way does the same thing, the Ameri-
can medicine will get through to all the hospitals near the
Burgenland border. None of our children will make the
trip without injections and they won't catch pneumonia
Missing Behind the Iron Curtain 155
When Oli left Andau village about nine o'clock on the
evening of All Saints' Eve, December 5, 1956, with the peni-
cillin, he had two companions. One was a fellow-student
named Ferri from Budapest enroute back to see his wife
The other was me.
. Fo Street Prison
IT WAS THE THREE OF us the two freedom fighters and I
who had lost our way after many hours' trek across the
Hungarian corn fields. Then had come the burst of gunfire
from behind the snow-frosted haystack, Oli's disappearance,
the quick capture of the one young Hungarian and me, the
icy moment of truth when the shouted command Stoi!
meant I was now an American taking orders in Russian.
How long Ferri and I walked inside the tight box of the
enemy patrol I never knew. My feet numbed, my flapping
overcoat froze over my knees, my head scarf fell back over
my shoulders and my arms grew too heavy to reach up and
pull it back in place. Black waves of weariness washed over
me and all I knew was that we were still walking. It was
false dawn before we saw that we had come to a clump of
A sentry's hoarse shout and the baying of a dog echoed
over us. Ferri and I were herded into a tiny outbuilding, un-
lighted and cold. Our guards waited silent around us till
another soldier arrived. He was carrying a lighted kerosene
lantern. He hung it, flickering yellow, on a long nail in the
door frame and studied us deliberately. He left and a second
soldier threw several half-folded blankets into the building.
Then he came in and sat on his haunches in one corner
Fo Street Prison 157
with his submachine gun across his knees. His air was of a
man who had come to stay.
It had now been hours since the patrol had detained us.
But no one had addressed a word to me that I understood,
and everything Ferri tried to say to the guards had been
greeted only with the briefest snorts of disbelief.
There was another clear and present danger. The coldness
of the straw-littered floor of the little outbuilding seemed a
solid thing. As I sat on it, I could feel the paralyzing touch
of the icy mud that covered my legs even through slacks,
boots, and skirt of my overcoat. If we slept, would we freeze
to death? I rolled myself into the thin comfort of one of the
blankets. Exhausted, I slept.
When I woke, it was full gray daylight. We were being
held in a small, concrete-walled building, freshly white-
washed. A square window framed a view of woods and
fields; in the foreground were all the symbols of the Iron
Curtain. Two sentries with submachine guns patrolled a
barrier of spiraled barbed wire. A restless black shepherd
dog heeled next to one of them. Inside the room our guard
had changed. An older, broader man sat impassively in the
same corner, though, his weapon in his hands.
Another soldier came through the door with an armload
of wood and, ignoring Ferri's greeting, moved to a tiny iron
stove I hadn't noticed before. I was immensely cheered
when it began to give off warmth, I took the provision of
heat as proof that we two prisoners were regarded as of
A man appeared in a padded uniform jacket like those
the Chinese soldiers wore in Korea. He took my passport,
with a letter identifying me as serving the International
Rescue Committee sticking out of one crumpled corner,
and disappeared. By the time he returned, Ferri and I had
eaten the last of the food in our pockets, two oranges and a
158 What's A Woman Doing Here?
chocolate bar. The man gave me back my papers, pointed
to us and with a gesture of command said, "Fahren!" Ride,
Boxed in by four riflemen, we were marched out behind
the buildings. Here was another icy cart trail and we began
to walk along it just as we'd walked through the darkness
the night before. The pace was even and the men's silence,
the sense of isolation were just as great. It was afternoon by
now, and a falling snow was filling in our light footprints.
The purple of twilight came before we reached a wide
country crossroad where two small sedans were parked as
if they had been waiting for us. I could decipher the name
of the make on the back of the nearest. Pobeda. Not a
Magyar word. It means victory in Russian.
I was directed to sit in the back seat of one car, Ferri was
put into the other. I realized we were being passed out of
the hands of the military. A soldier with the ubiquitous sub-
machine gun occupied the right front seat of each sedan, but
the cars were shiny black, not dull olive drab. And the
drivers wore civilian clothes. From what agency could they
Secret police drivers would wear civilian clothes, said a
voice in my mind.
I knew if the feeling in my knees rose as far as my stomach
there was a short word for it. Panic. My next thought, as the
cars lurched off down the road, was for the one burden of
contraband I carried a Minox camera. It was about the size
and shape of a package of chewing gum. With it I'd expected
to make pictures to prove the penicillin had been delivered
to a freedom-fighter doctor.
To make certain my two fellow patrollers didn't warn me
not to take a camera across the border at all, I'd avoided the
subject. Fd let them watch me leave back in Vienna the two
Leica cameras I usually carried. Then I had taped the Minox
Fo Street Prison 159
to my side under my brassiere in the best Mata Hari tradi-
The AVO undoubtedly would come to the best Mata
Hari conclusion, too, if they found it there. A fine euphe-
mism that was, I reminded myself tartly, for being shot. I'd
better get rid of the cameranow.
But obviously the soldier sitting in front of me was
there to see that prisoners got rid of nothing. He had to sit
awkardly and use both hands on his weapon to keep me un-
der observation. And he was doing just that.
After a short drive, we stopped in front of a farmhouse
to pick up another prisoner. It was fully dark by now, and
her white face emerged pathetically from the night. She was
a thin frightened woman of perhaps thirty who entered the
car crying bitterly. In her arms was a baby sleeping in a
pink blanket embroidered with flowers. The baby seemed
to be fretting without awakening as the woman settled her-
self beside me. After she had regained control of herself, she
slid a flat tin of cigarettes out of her coat pocket. I didn't
understand the language she was speaking but I took one
gratefully when she offered it (I'd carried none of my own
on the patrol because smoking could give away our position).
I gestured to show that I'd like to hold the baby, and she
almost flinched away from me. Now in broken German she
explained that she was a Czech whose passport had been
judged out of order. I understood her terror at once; would
she be separated from her baby if she was imprisoned? I
could not reassure her although I tried. I knew the answer
probably was yes.
I drew deeply on my cigarette and began to figure out
what I'd do about my little camera.
The scheme worked from the first. Each time the ash on
my cigarette grew to a quarter of an inch, I looked around
for an ashtray. Of course there's no such bourgeois refine-
160 What's A Woman Doing Here?
merit in a Russian car. As if I were too well-mannered to
litter the floor of somebody else's sedan, I rolled down the
window in the locked car door at my side just far enough
to flick out the ashes. The soldier in the front seat tired at
last of watching this procedure and turned back to gaze
fixedly out through the windshield.
Feverishly I unbuttoned my overcoat, pushed up my
sweater, wool shirt and underclothing, and removed the
camera from under my arm. I had used four adhesive band-
ages to hold the Minox to my skin and I counted them
meticulously, not leaving one to tell its own story if I were
Now I had the camera in one hand and a lighted cigarette
in the other. All I had to do was roll down the window
But waitl The little camera was heavy and shiny. I couldn't
throw it. What if it hit the rear fender and the driver
stopped to find out what had made that clinking noise?
No. The solution was at hand. Literally. I'd been wearing
brown wool knitted gloves, bulky ones. I took the right glove
from my pocket and slid the Minox into the index finger.
Now if it hit the car the noise would be muffled.
I rolled the window down, palmed the camera and as I
flicked off my cigarette ash with a little shower of sparks, I
let the Minox fall. There wasn't a whisper of sound.
I was elated. Hadn't I just gotten rid of a most compromis-
ing bit of evidence right under the submachine gun barrel
of the man who was supposed to keep me from doing any-
thing like it? I wondered why people who engaged in this
business professionally had to go to school to learn how.
The good feeling lasted until the car had left the country-
side and was spinning through the streets of a town. Then I
wished I had gone to school before trying to play my Mata
Hari game. I realized I had just made the most ludicrous of
amateur mistakes. I had kept the other glove. And now I
Fo Street Prison 161
had no cigarette to help me get rid of it. In short, I was still
holding on my lap the direct link which could prove the
Minox in the road was mine. To be caught leaving it in the
car now (and I was pretty sure they'd search the back seat
as soon as we got out) would be admitting that I thought it
could be used as evidence against me.
I told myself I was wrong. Only a secret police force used
such methods, or would care about such a link if they could
forge it. But in whose hands was I?
We drove through a pair of wide guarded gates that ended
for all time in my mind that our captors might be from some
other agency. It wasn't the fence of barbed wire, the dogs,
the gun towers, the flood lights or the high stone walls that
made me so sure. It was a brass plaque set into the concrete
beside the main building doors. The letters on it was A V H.
We prisoners Ferri, the lady with the baby, a cadaverous-
faced man I had not seen before and I were locked into a
small room with a table and several straight chairs. It looked
like the ante-room of any police station. But other police
do not put two uniformed men playing with an automatic
rifle in with four unarmed prisoners and a baby. The baby
began to cry, and its mother, blushing, turned her back and
began to open her dress to feed it.
Barely moving his lips, Ferri said we were in Gyor. It
had been the scene of one of the most brutal uprisings of
the revolution against the AVH; they would not have for-
gotten what they had suffered at the hands of civilians, and
obviously civilians was what all of us were.
It had now been some twenty hours since I'd been captured
and I still had not been spoken to in any language I under-
Ferri was ordered into an adjoining office. When he came
162 What's A Woman Doing Heref
back he defied the guards' order that we not talk to each
other. He said,
"My God, they don't believe the whole story."
For a minute I wracked my brain; what story had he told?
Then I saw the film of perspiration on his square open face
and the shaking of his big hands. He had been gone quite
a time. Undoubtedly, the AVH now knew everything he
Then I was directed into the other room. A tall man in
a tweed overcoat sat behind a scarred desk. Standing at his
side was a short plump man in a frayed blue overcoat. Blue-
coat, it seemed, spoke German.
"Why did you escape to Hungary?" he asked me.
I was nonplussed. "I did not escape to Hungary."
"You were arrested in Hungary."
"I don't know where I was captured. But I wasn't arrested.
Your men opened fire on me without warning. I had nothing
in my hands. I wanted to help deliver the medicine you
took from the knapsack of my colleague as a token from my
people to your people."
Bluecoat wanted that repeated. I repeated it.
"I have never," he declaimed after exchanging words with
the man behind the desk, "I have never heard such a fairy
story since I was too old to read the brothers Grimm."
I said what was to become a litany.
"I'll be happy to discuss the matter further," I offered, "as
soon as a representative of my Consulate is here with me.
You know my nationality; here is my passport."
I thereby started a three-way multilingual argument that
lasted a good half hour. I lost.
A few minutes later, the woman with the baby (it was
contented now) and I were led from the office building into
another long low structure obviously built to last. We en-
tered through a steel door at one end into a narrow corridor.
Fo Street Prison 163
On each side of the hall were three indentations. Each o
these curved to a heavy steel door. One door opened on a
cold-water sink and toilet. The others led to cells two-and-a-
half paces long.
I had never spent a night in jail in my life. It was apparent
that I was about to do so, and wistfully I felt I might have
begun my convict career in some other hands but these.
We women were still, however, favored prisoners.
Bluecoat went so far as to apologize for the conditions of
confinement. "You will see your consul in the morning and
we don't have any other place to put you/' But I noticed the
door was noisily locked behind him as he left me in one cell
and installed the lady with the baby in the next. I knew
nothing of what might have happened to Ferri.
Bluecoat thoughtfully did arrange for us to have heat; an
armed guard in the corridor clumsily set his submachine gun
aside to shovel coal into the stove set in the wall between my
cell and the Czech woman's.
In the cell, the sleeping accommodation was a wooden
platform somewhat insulated by three sections of thin and
ill-used mattress. Three rough thin blankets completed the
ensemble. I wrapped myself in my overcoat and all the
blankets, wondered naively at what time they put the cell
light out and fell asleep.
It was almost exactly four o'clock in the morning by my
watch when the cell door swung wide. Four men in civilian
clothing, led by Bluecoat, filed solemnly into the tiny space
beside my bunk.
Normally I would be sleepy enough for this kind of game
to be effective with me. But this morning I was completely
awake in an instant. I sat up on the bunk, redraping the
blankets, and regarded the men as if they were invited guests.
I said crisply, "Good morning, gentlemen."
It took Bluecoat a few seconds to resume his glower, which
164 What's A Woman Doing Here?
made me feel wonderful. "Why did you escape to Hungary?'*
"I did not escape to Hungary/'
"You were arrested in Hungary."
"I don't know where I was captured."
"What are you doing in Hungary?"
I did not reply.
"What were you doing when we arrested you?"
"When you captured me, I wanted to bring to your people
the gift of medicine from my people which you have seen."
"We do not believe you."
I raised the point about the American Consul.
They felt it was their turn to be silent.
This mutual meditation lasted a few moments. Then there
was an argument in rapid Magyar among the men. Finally
two of them made gestures of disgust and the entire party
turned on its heel and left, slamming the cell door behind
them. The guard bolted it. I tried to go back to sleep and,
Breakfast was brought to the cell doors. A chunk of dark
bread and some cold roasted-acorn brew, the beverage I had
called "ersatz coffee" when I worked in Europe after the war.
In the middle of the morning, I was led out of the cell and
back into the little sedan. There was no sign of the Czech
woman, but Ferri was being ordered into the back of a
second Pobeda. I made a move to greet him and Bluecoat
stopped me firmly. Then he said, cheerily,
"Now we will take you to your consul/'
I knew a moment of confusion. Surely there could be no
American Consul in Gyor?
That mystery was solved as soon as we drove by an inter-
section. The huge signpost had two white arrows pointing
in opposite directions. The one to the right read VIENNA
Fo Street Prison 165
131 km. The other read BUDAPEST 129 km. Our car turned
My hundred-mile drive to Budapest, courtesy of the secret
police, seemed long. Bluecoat beside me had abandoned his
efforts at sociability and the two men in the front of the car,
both wearing pistols outside their coats, did not speak. The
two sedans halted once to buy cigarettes in a quiet village
and Bluecoat gave me half a dozen. Five times we were
stopped at military checkpoints along the road. At one place
we were held up by a truck convoy. The tarpaulin covers on
the loads were crudely marked with huge crayoned red
crosses. The license plates said the convoy had originated in
Gdynia, Poland, the first city behind the Iron Curtain in
which I'd worked for the Quakers.
The outskirts of Budapest were unmistakably marked,
once by a bullet-spattered roadsign and then by a Russian
tank concealed around a blind corner. The tank was freshly
painted, its white unit insignia and red star in gleaming
enamel. Against the ornate but shabby apartment houses, it
looked larger than life and hideously sinister.
I knew from my Life colleagues that the city's street
cars were running sporadically again and there was some
pedestrian traffic. So I was not surprised to see the trolleys
and the people. But I was quite unprepared for what hap-
pend to me.
I don't suppose anyone ever is prepared for it. Our cars
turned off the street, passed through huge sheet-steel gates
set in high stone walls, and parked in a cobblestone court
entirely surrounded by buildings of five and six stories, every
one of whose windows were barred with steel. I didn't see
where Ferri had gone but suddenly the sedan behind us in
which he had been riding was empty.
Not by the wildest stretch of imagination could this be
the route to the American Consul.
166 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I could still delude myself that this was a detour, but I
had a full hour, sitting in the back of the car with the doors
locked and an armed guard sharing the seat with me, to think
about it. I amused myself watching sparrows bathing in a
puddle. Then I watched men go in and out of the nearest
set of steel doors. The men were young and wore civilian
clothing of various degrees of shabbiness. They had an air
of people working on a gloomy job.
At last Bluecoat came back to the sedan. He smiled, he
opened the door and invited me to follow him through the
building entrance into a cellar corridor. It was immensely
long and cavernous. It dead-ended at what must, from the
smells, be a kitchen. But this kitchen was cut off from the
hall by a row of shiny steel bars.
On the left wall of the cavern stood a row of six pineboard
cubicles, looking just like vertical coffins. Within and across
each one, at sea" height, a board had been nailed. If you sat
on it and the swinging door of the cubicle was pushed shut
you were quite alone in cold and darkness.
Bluecoat firmly closed me into one, shut the door and
fastened it from the outside, and I heard his footsteps grow
On top of the dawning certainty that I was not on the
way to the consul I remembered my meagre breakfast and
missing lunch. I tried not to be noisy about it but the tears
running down my cheeks were warm and welcome.
Presently there was a tapping on the thin wood partition
at my elbow. I had never felt less inclined to display good
manners in my life and I ignored it a cardinal sin here, I
was to learn. But the tapper persisted and finally I saw my
own dirty hand tap back. Now I heard a whispered question
in Magyar. Silence. Then, in German, "Do you speak
"Yes," I whispered back hoarsely.
Fo Street Prison 167
"Are you hungry?"
How could he know? "Yes/ 7
"Look up/' ordered the whisper.
I did, and understood the source of the murky light in the
cubicle. It had no ceiling. Now, incredibly, a hand was
reaching over the partition holding a small bright red apple.
I took the apple, stage-whispered a thank you and dis-
covered the lump had moved out of my throat so I could
"Do you smoke?" asked my neighbor's voice.
"Do you have cigarettes?"
"I still have a few. Do you want one?"
"A few is not enough. Look up."
That unbelievable hand was there again, holding six
"So many I can't take them," I whispered.
"Give some to the man on the other side of you, then/'
said the donor.
I tapped on the other wall of my cubicle, received an
answering tap, said, "Look up," in German, and reached over
the partition. The three cigarettes were taken from my hand
and I heard a few words of whispered Magyar.
Now my considerate friend went back to the subject of
"Did you bring any food with you?"
"Look up." This time the hand was holding a small paper-
wrapped parcel. I opened it on my lap. A chunk of firm
sweet jam lay in the paper.
"Where did you get all these things?" I wanted to know.
"My mother packed them for me."
"Did you know you were going to prison?"
The answer was horrifyingly matter-of-fact. "Of course/'
168 What's A Woman Doing Heref
There was a silence. Then, obviously reliving joyously a
wonderful experience, he added, "I have had thirty-six days
This cracked me up completely. And I, who have had
thirty-seven years of it, have melted with self-pity so you,
proud of thirty-six days, feed and comfort me.
The whisper came again. "Try to remember what you
Americans always say." That was in German, but the next
two words were in English. "Keep smiling/'
The door of my cubicle was being swung back and a limp-
ing man with a square face and a bored air motioned me to
follow him down the corridor into a long room. One half
was a disorderly office, focused on a desk and typewriter
and telephone. The other half was inexplicable to me. I
saw a litter of burlap bags on the linoleum floor and a cur-
tain on a string so that the far end of the space could be
The square-faced man had lurched into the chair behind
the typewriter. Anxiously he rolled a form into it. He
snapped something at me in Magyar.
I orew aware that someone had moved in behind me. His
poise was greater than anybody else's. He was speaking easily
in German. "Write your name for him. But print it."
I took a torn scrap of paper and a pencil off the desk and
printed my name. Before I was done I had recognized the
voice that was instructing me, and 1 turned around. "Were
you waiting next to me outside?' 7
"Thank you for all"
Squareface angrily halted our conversation and motioned
the man behind me to come in front of the desk. This gave
me a chance to look at my benefactor. He was broad, gaunt,
dark-haired, strong-muscled, shabby and utterly at ease. In
his hands he held a package wrapped in a thread-bare towel.
Fo Street Prison 169
While Squareface watched him, he removed his belt, leaned
over to take out his shoelaces, unrolled the towel on a
crooked little table and sorted its contents into two piles.
Into one pile he put the belt, the laces, his scarf, his cuff-
links, his tie clip and his wallet. In the other he left a wash-
rag, a piece of soap, two packages of cigarettes one of which
was opened, and a package wrapped like my present of the
He slid the first pile into a burlap bag which he had picked
up from the floor. He tied its neck with string and laid it on
the table before Squareface.
Then, smiling, he turned back to me. Coolly, he said,
"Now I'm back in prison again. That's all there is to it-
it's easy. You don't forget keep smiling." A short man in
uniform apparently had been waiting for him at the door,
and he walked out behind the guard with a firm tread.
The room had filled up while this little drama was being
underplayed. There were three uniformed guards, a helper
in stained civilian clothes for Squareface and an apple-
cheeked girl probably not yet twenty wearing a dirty butcher's
Squareface turned back to wrestling with the problem of
communications with me. This time it was obvious he in-
tended to solve it.
I motioned to the telephone. "The American Consulate/*
I said, weighting each syllable.
"Nem," he replied with dull exasperation the Magyar
Lying on the desk I now spotted my passport; Bluecoat
had had it last. I picked it up. Butcher Girl took it firmly
out of my hand and showed it to Squareface. He began to
study it, making entries on the form in the typewriter as he
Butcher Girl led me to the far end of the room, slipped a
170 What's A Woman Doing Heref
long curtain part of the way across to hide me from the men's
gaze and indicated that she wanted me to give her my boot
lacings. They were very long and of raw hide. "New,,' I
said. "The American Consulate."
She hesitated a minute and then, with the air of a harassed
mother instructing a backward child, she made the motions
I was puzzled. I couldn't believe they'd hang me for even
my very good bootlaces. Later I was to realize what she meant
in this moment of protectiveness she had been trying to
explain, "If we don't take them away from you, dearie,
you'll hang yourself with them." The fact of course was that
she knew the prison. I didn't yet.
She abruptly abandoned the subject of shoelaces and
motioned for me to give her my overcoat.
At that moment the ludicrousness of my own position be-
came obvious. I was free to protest or resist to my heart's
content as long as I was willing to do it to a girl just
out of her teens and a limping clerk who could type with
only two fingers. Their one interest was to commit me to
prison and if they needed help to do it, there were three
guards lounging only a few feet away.
I handed Butcher Girl my overcoat and later every other
garment I was wearing. She continued to be protective in
manner, searching first all the garments that went on over
my head and returning these before she searched the slacks
and ski underwear. In this way I didn't have to stand com-
pletely naked in the icy room.
As she worked with system and thoroughness, she was
sorting out the same two piles I had seen my kind acquaint-
ance make for himself. Into one went my jam, my cigarettes
and major objects of clothing including my one brown glove.
The second pile began with my belt and my wallet. To it
she added my powder compact, lipstick, lipstick brush, ciga-
Fo Street Prison 171
rette lighter, mechanical pencil, two unused adhesive band-
ages, two foil-wrapped paper washrags, a roll of adhesive
tape, a hairnet, two shell hair combs, the four bone hairpins
and half a dozen metal ones that had held up my dark-blond
bun, and the two pearl earrings she unscrewed from my ear
lobes. She left me the double red-colored rubber band
through which I'd pulled my hair into a knot back in Vienna
two days earlier.
Then she faltered over what I carried in the watch pocket
of my slacks a tiny dress wrist watch. She made the motions
of winding it, squinted admiringly at its small dial, listened
for its tick and laid it tenderly across her own plump wrist.
I decided not to take the hint but I was to wonder many
times what would have happened if I had. Then, as she
handled me and the objects I realized dully I thought of as
symbolizing me, I wondered about something else.
What happens to a cheerful twenty-year-old girl whose
first job is to body-search women in a secret police prison?
Which is the greater horror to be the searched or the
When she was done, she carried the valuables over to
Squareface, briskly throwing open the curtain on the string
as she passed. Together they listed the objects, haggling good-
naturedly in Magyar over the terms they should use was the
gold on the pencil and lighter solid or plate? The compact
had been my mother's just before she passed away a few
months earlier. The lipstick case was a souvenir of my work
at Oak Ridge. The lighter was a long-ago gift from Tony.
The earrings had been made especially for me in Tehran.
I suddenly realized how much of my identity was being
"You give me that compact/' I said, reaching for it.
Butcher Girl interposed herself in front of my reaching
172 What's A Woman Doing Heref
She opened the compact with difficulty, pointed emphat-
ically to the glass, made the motions of a person slashing
their wrists with a sharp edge, and snapped the cover deci-
sively. The glimpse of myself that I had had as she gestured
was the last time I was to see my face in a mirror for weeks.
I was disconcerted, but I was not about to face the fact
that I was going to jail. I had been searched, yes. But my
bootlaces were taut in place and now I was holding my pass-
Butcher Girl took my right arm and a uniformed guard no
older than she nudged me from the left, A second guard led
us, three abreast, out of the office and into a tiny elevator
much in need of sweeping. He looked at a slip of paper in
his hand and punched the button marked 5. The elevator
When we left it, my last doubts about the building were
painfully removed. We passed through two walls of steel
bars into what could be nothing but the cell block of a huge
and high-security prison. I looked again and felt every nerve
of my body tingle with shock. I had heard of this cell block;
the refugees had described its architecture to me. I was not
just in jail. I was in the F6 Street Prison, the most dreaded
of them all.
The central hall of the block was perhaps forty yards long
and twenty across, cavernously dim. Each end was a wall of
translucent glass, tiny panes of it set into narrow metal
frames. The stone floor was divided into narrow rectangular
paths by wrought-iron fencing, knee-high. On one side of
the hall were a number of oak-beam doors; on the other were
several bays with two cells and a closet-sized toilet cubicle in
I was taken into the second bay from the end and the left-
hand door was ceremoniously unlocked.
Inside was a cell with two sleeping shelves. Sitting on one
Fo Street Prison 173
was a plump brunette who looked up impassively as I en-
tered. I was led to the other.
Butcher Girl still spoke nothing but Magyar, but I had no
trouble understanding what she was saying from her gestures.
"Now," she began cheerfully, "give me the shoelaces and the
I'm sure what I said was equally clear to her even if I
said it in English. "As soon as I see the American Consul/'
She shrugged her shoulders and motioned to the two
guards. I looked at them for the first time. They were slight,
brisk, erect, one blonde and the other dark. They too were
wearing the padded green jackets of the Red volunteers in
Korea. And as they came toward me, not hurrying, I saw
something else something important. They were not armed.
Little as I knew of prisons, I did know what that meant. It
signified that this establishment was so thoughtfully organized
that any warder coming in direct contact with prisoners
could not be hit over the head and relieved of his firearm
because he didn't have any.
The team of the girl and the two guards were smart, too.
They had guessed correctly that I would not be willing to
be manhandled for my bootlaces. Now I sat down and re-
moved them as slowly as possible.
But I might feel strongly about my passport. So, with
smiles, patience and many gestures at the face of the large
wrist watch one of the guards wore, they communicated to
me that at nine o'clock the following morning, my consul
would be here to see me if they now borrowed my passport
to prove my identity to him. I handed it to them.
Then they were gone and I realized that what had sounded
like the bolting of a heavy cell door on a movie screen was
in fact the bolting of a heavy cell door in a secret police
prison in Budapest.
My mind revolved around the pledge of the consul's
174 What's A Woman Doing Her el
coming as I sat down on the sleeping shelf. I didn't believe
the source but any other outcome was unthinkable.
So I slid my feet out of my flapping muddy boots and
started to lie down, trusting sleep would pass some of the
interminable uncomfortable time till tomorrow morning at
It was cold in the cell and I shook out a folded blanket
from those on the sleeping shelf. The blanket felt rough and
sticky in my hands and I looked at it with curiosity. It
had once been beige-colored, with two stripes, red and green
the national colors of Hungary at each end. But in the now
dun-dirty center part was a spreading cluster of round blood-
stains, and one edge recently had rested in a pool of blood.
I handled at least five of these blankets in my time in prison
and never saw one that was unbloodied.
Now I rested my head on my bent arm and curled my
stockinged feet up on the shelf. But my cell mate, who had
been quietly sitting and watching me, seemed to rouse from
her lethargy. I saw she would have been a pretty girl if she
had not been so pale, so shabby and so could it be boredf
She was objecting almost insistently to what I was doing.
"Nem, nem" She explained by making the cheek-on-hands
gesture indicating sleeping and then shook her head. She
picked up one of my muddy boots and held it as though
she were selling it to me. I slid my foot into it because she
so obviously expected me to, and with more gestures she
taught me the first rule of life in the Fo Street prison:
Except during the hours when sleeping is mandatory, you
will keep your feet flat on the floor at all times.
I decided pacing was a better choice than sitting, and
counted that it was seven steps from end to end of the cell.
Later, I was to learn a real prisoners' trance-like shuffle by
which I could make ten steps in the same distance and turn
almost reflexively by brushing the whitewashed cell with my
Fo Street Prison 175
shoulder. My overcoat finally was white and worn through at
the shoulders from the movement.
My first prison meal was supper that eveningan enameled
metal bowl, like a one-quart saucepan with the handle
knocked off, partly filled with cabbage in its own cooking
water. I was hungry and ate all of mine. My cell mate dis-
dained part of hers and I ate that. We had to eat quickly
because the bowls and spoons were reclaimed by the guards.
I can remember some of the things I thought about after we
had eaten. For nearly twenty years I had been writing about
refugees from terror from front lines, from bombing, from
horror prisons. It seemed ironically right that for this one
long night I should eat only their fare and sleep on a board.
I made a pronouncement out of it; perhaps a prison cell
should figure in the life of every correspondent. Now that
I'd decided my moral position possessed such excellency, I
welcomed the guards' indications that it was time to sleep.
I wrapped myself in the two blankets on which I could
see no bloodstains and started to lie down.
My cell mate objected to the fact that my hands were
inside the blankets. She gently removed them. Then she
pointed to the peephole in the door. I looked puzzled. She
made the motions of slashing her wrists as the Butcher Girl
had done before. Putting the gestures together, I took it that
she meant I was to keep my hands out so the guards could
see I wasn't bleeding to death from cuts I'd inflicted on
She also unmistakably indicated I must sleep facing the
light. It was a single clear bulb set in a recess high above
the door. It was never turned off; without the unwavering
light at night, the peephole could not serve its purpose.
I slept well, finally, secure in the expectation of the consul.
The next day the light through the cell window grew bright
176 What's A Woman Doing Heref
and began to dim, so I knew nine o'clock had long since
passedbut the consul had not come. Then I remembered
that this was a Saturday. Perhaps there had been a delay in
delivering my passport to him. But no delay would take the
whole day, I was sure.
At last the moment for which I had been listening did
come there was the sound of the guard's heeltaps, then the
bolts were slammed back into the door. But when it swung
wide, a Puck-faced guard motioned to my cell mate, not to
me. He seemed to be telling her to take her coat from a
peg on the window frame; she seemed to be asking if she
were being released. He shrugged; didn't he know or didn't
he care? She followed him out of the cell eagerly. I never
saw her again.
After a time the cell door was opened again. The guard
stood there, smiling at me. I followed him with a swimming
sensation of relief, realizing for the first time how tense I'd
been. So hasty was my departure that I did not even put
down a piece of bread on which I had been munching.
He led me across the great hall and a second guard took
over as my escort, the tallest warder I'd seen yet. He, too,
was smiling* He directed me down a flight of wide marble
steps. There was something terrifying about them, and as I
stepped down in my flapping boots, I realized what it was.
They were worn, terribly worn. How many generations of
prisoners for whom there was no release by the American
Consul had walked these same steps before me?
I had been on the fifth floor; I should have four flights to
walk to reach the first. I reached the bottom of the steps on
the second landing before I realized that my guard's smile
had become a chuckle and then a loud laugh which was
being echoed by the Puck-faced guard at the top. He was
actually guffawing down the stair well.
I didn't need anyone to explain the joke.
Fo Street Prison 177
There was no consul coming for me, either.
The tall guard abruptly stepped in front of me, cutting
off my downward progress, and the warder above caught his
breath long enough to shout to his colleague that it was
time to bring me back. I still had the chunk of bread in
my hand. As I trudged up the stairs, I buried my face and
some of my emotions in it.
Back in the cell, I realized I had been a prisoner of the
Communist secret police here for more than twenty-four
hours. I sat down on the end of my sleeping shelf and, with
my thumb nail, I made a straight vertical mark in the plaster
at my shoulder.
I will not lose track of time, I promised myself.
But what had been the date from which I'd count?
I thought a minute, and I knew no American would forget
it, It had been December 7.
U. The Long Wait
THE DAILY ROUTINE in the F6 Street prison of a person
alonein solitary confinement, as I wasfollowed a grim
and erratic pattern. It was erratic for a purpose. You must
never know how long it would be before the next food or
rest. And you would know, almost from the first, that you
were being systematically cut loose from time as a pillar of
Long before it grew light each day, all the prisoners were
shouted awake. In the unrelenting cold, I would be ordered
to draw three inches of icy water from a tap in the wall out-
side the door (one faucet for perhaps thirty cells) into the
bottom of a dented bowl. From this I washed first myself,
then my laundry and finally the cell floor.
Later, shoved to me through the Judas window in the
door, came a half-bowl of barely warm acorn-brew and a
chunk of dark bread weighing about a pound and a half.
This was followed by a stretch of some uninterrupted hours
which I came to call the Long Wait.
The food, sometime near the middle of the day, was an-
other half-bowl of tepid liquid, clear soup, and a second one
of stew yellowed potatoes in potato puree, cabbage in cab-
bage water, dried beans in their own cooking water or faintly
The Long Wait 179
pink spiced rice. Warming my hands on the metal bowls,
I made it a rule to down every calorie.
After the stew for which, usually, I had been painfully
impatient even though I knew how disappointing it would
be, came the second long period of the day without inter-
ruption. I called it the Shorter Wait.
The last daily feeding was a few ounces more of stew or
a portion of the Good Food given us here because we were
under interrogation and therefore to be denied the mercy
of sinking easily into the apathy of starvation. This was one
of five items. The best was a piece of clear bacon fat about a
third the size of a package of cigarettes. This I ate out of my
hand, licking iny fingers, and then used the rind to clean my
boots. Other items were a two-inch cut of uncooked pork
sausage, or a half-inch slice of salami, or a wedge of chalk-
like cheese, or a flat slice of apple jam.
That was all.
Ten days on this diet, and I learned something about
hunger I had never known. My own hunger was not just
a weakness. It was a local pain as big as my hand, sharp or
dull but never still. More important, under the impact of
hunger, I watched myself become another person. I kept the
ability to tell myself how I ought to act. But no matter what
I planned to say or do or think, there was just one mood of
which I was capable. Sullen and terrible ugliness. After a
time, I thought I probably had forgotten how to weep or
curse. I knew I could not laugh. In short, my behavior was
being effortlessly controlled by my jailors with food.
Each day, some time after the cell window showed only
black again, we were ordered by a shout back onto the
The unchanging scene inside my cell always looked like
a stage setting. It was not quite real to me, even after I had
pressed myself against the walls and felt their solidness.
180 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Around all the hours of the day, the uneven whitish bricks
before my eyes were washed with the yellow light from the
electric bulb, a huge globe with a bare filament. This was
set into a recess lined with wood high over the door.
The floor was smooth cold gray stone. The great door was
a masterpiece from some blacksmith of the Middle Ages.
The prisoner's side was scarred rust-red like the side of an
old battleship. At eye level was a circle of perforations in the
sheet metal the peephole. Below that was the Judas window,
small, square, iron-bound and hinged.
The cell window was square and not small but thought-
fully constructed in layers. The outer one was of iron bars,
the next two heavy casements of translucent glass in small
panes. Inside, on a varnished wooden frame which projected
menacingly into die cell, was a weighty wire screen. Playing
between the two casements of my cell it was No. 504, on
the fifth floor were a number of sparrows. If I stood on the
sleeping shelf until a guard came in to stop me, I could
watch the birds fly out between the bars into the little slit
Of myself, the evidences I saw almost every moment I was
awake were my breath freezing in the air and my high boots
gaping open. Sounds echoed clearly through the entire five
levels of the cell block. I could hear the great steel gates in
the prison wall scrape open and smash shut. The prison vans
coughed into the courtyard day and night, paused to decant
the miserable muttering people they had carried and then
ground out again. The guards' metaled heels struck the
floor outside the cell, one rhythm for walking purposefully,
another when they were approaching the peephole and
wanted you to know it, and only a sibilance sometimes when
they were moving to the door to look in on you unawares.
Often, I heard the most pathetic sound of all a few taps
on the wall that meant somebody alone in the next cell
The Long Wait 181
wanted to be sure there was another human being alive not
hisor her? enemy.
But for the taps, I remained completely alone. Once, when
they interrupted interrogating me, I went for eight days and
nights without communicating with another human being.
And never in F6 Street did I see another prisoner.
A few days of being locked up alone are not considered to
be a light punishment for a hardened criminal in America.
And the law says they must be told when it will end.
The AVO held me this way for more than five weeks.
Sometimes I asked the interrogator how long it would con-
tinue. "Under Hungarian law, one cannot know/* was the
answer. I persisted, "Days, weeks, months?" When it had
already been days, he said, ''Weeks, perhaps/* When it al-
ready had already been weeks, he said, "Months, perhaps."
When a month had passed, he stopped answering my ques-
It is a curious and awful time.
Here is a universe unpeopled. Walled-in not just by brick,
but by ends ends of sensation, and of plan, and of move-
ment. You sense that there can be no beginnings here.
The most important thing about it is that it hurts.
I first strung those few sentences together in my mind
in the solitary cell and I put them down only a few days after
I came out of prison. When I reread them weeks later, I
found that my body remembered more vividly than my
brain. My shoulders tensed till they ached, my hands grew
cold, my throat clenched with nausea.
The awareness of being starkly alone can swell like a true
sound, a dissonance so vast no other hurt is real.
You can know of other dangers close by if it's useful for
the Reds to hang a conspirator from the West right now,
I could be itand the next time I wake up could be the
time. And, of course, there's torture what if they learn I've
182 What's A Woman Doing Heref
been covering the new Marine helicopter tactics as a corre-
spondent recently? And what will happen when I grow sick?
There is no chance to heal.
But to be truly afraid of these threatsthat would be anti-
climax. They no longer possess any power to shock. They
are drained of drama. Only the pain of the present is real.
Then I would think, I've had it; why don't I die?
There, of course, lay the clue to the one effective resistance:
That I've had itthat's exactly what they want me to
I never quite lost my sense of being watched through the
peephole, but the sense weakened in its impact. At last I did
not care if the guards could tell that I was no longer control-
ling the muscles of my face. But always when I paced toward
the peephole, I cared desperately that I control the tilt of
my head, that my chin be literally up.
If you can do nothing but think, you need somehow to
decide what you'll think about. As the diet cuts your span
of concentration, you need to make that choice often because
you cannot follow a single line of thought for an hour or a
day but only for minutes.
Of course I could always ask myself how I'd come to be
in Cell No. 504 at Fo Street. At first I shied from the ques-
tion because I was afraid I'd only welter in self-pity instead
of answer it. But in time and time I had! I learned to ask
My being here had begun because there was something I
wanted to see. Well, how important was the job of being an
eyewitness and a reporter?
Would it really have mattered if I'd seen the delivery of
the medicine into the hands of a doctor from among the
freedom fighters, if the photo of the man (probably just his
hands or his back; his face could not have been printed lest
The Long Wait 183
the AVO identify him) and the story of the circumstances
had been printed in the American press? Was one such image
worth risking being killed or wounded or missing or im-
I could state what I meant by risk in arithmetic. Yd crossed
the Iron Curtain on foot sixteen times. I'd been captured
once. So the odds about which I was thinking were fifteen
The answer to the question was simply yes. I believed the
picture I'd been trying to make would have moved someone
who saw it to provide new aid to the freedom fighters and
there were no odds to be calculated in their favor. I balanced
the certain, if incalculable, effect of that aid to them against
the fifteen to one risk of one person, not young, without
dependents. And I knew I didn't weigh that heavily in the
Sometimes I wondered about the other unseen people in
the prison workers, housewives, students, priests, writers. I
had known several refugees who told me back on the border
that they had been imprisoned in this very building. The
white-haired Anna Kethley (who for five days the previous
October had been free Hungary's Secretary of State) had
escaped and gone to New York. She had been held alone for
almost seven years.
I had heard her tell of how she made a life in the cell for
herself, and the recollection led me to look squarely at what
I might have to do.
I stopped myself, then. What makes you think of that so
quickly? Aren't you giving up awfully easy? You've only
been here for weeks.
Indignantly, I answered that. No, I'm not giving up at
all. But I can't remember any American actually put away
incommunicado in an Iron Curtain cell being released more
quickly than Bill Oatis, the Associated Press correspondent
184 What's A Woman Doing Here?
jailed in Czechoslovakia. And it was years two years before
he was freed. (At the time in F6 Street, I thought this might
be a panic-born conclusion. Later I learned it was a fact.)
I had nothing to read at first nor to write with. But I
remembered one pastime that needed nothing but my own
willingness to try it. Exercise. I discovered it by accident,
really, when I was making a gesture to defy the prison rule
about keeping my feet flat on the floor. Lying on my back
and lifting my legs eased the pain in my stomach, and for the
first time I could feel my feet through the cold. Finally an-
other gymnastic led me to my one memorable moment of
triumph over the guards the only real one, I think.
I'm no athlete but there is one trick I've learned from
fighting men to fall and roll over my shoulder back to my
feet. I had always thought I was skilled enough to do it on
hard stone, even if I'd only practiced on soft earth or softer
gym mats. But I wasn't really sure. One evening I decided
to try it in the cell over a blanket.
As I spread the blanket on the floor, a guard slammed
open the Judas window in the cell door. He must have been
watching me through the peephole. I didn't know the words
he shouted angrily but I understood what he meant. You
get that blanket off the floor!
I stared hard at his young sneering face framed in the rusty
Out of sheer bravado, I answered bitingly, "I don't need
the blanket." And I swept it aside and quickly did the
roll four times. Back and forth in the length of the cell,
coming back to my feet each time. My shoulder ached, my
hand stung, I almost crashed against the wall. But it was
The guard was not just annoyed. He recognized the trick
The Long Wait 185
he'd probably had to learn it himself during his own train-
ing. So he knew it was not hard to bruise yourself that way.
And if I came to an interrogation session marked up without
his having reported that "it had been necessary to discipline
me," the chances were good that he'd be blamed. He put both
his hands over his face, turned his back on the Judas window
without remembering to slam it shut, and went away.
The next morning he furtively handed me a slim, torn
volume written by the German poet, Heinrich Heine.
In the yellow light, the strange print trembling because I
was too cold to steady the book, I began to study its pages.
True, I could speak German. But I had never tried to read
it before. The Heine book was the only reading material I
saw for eighteen days and by then I had laboriously figured
out every word. I began memorizing the pages. On the days
when we were given fat or sugar, I could memorize eight
lines of poetry. On the others, four was my limit.
Almost every morning, during the moment of inner calm
that came after I'd eaten my first piece of bread, I would
try to make up a kind of mental balance sheet. I'd incorporate
into it anything new I'd noticed since the previous day
about the workings of the prison system. Then, as an anchor
against slipping unaware into an unreal world, I'd try to
put into words my judgment of the moment about my
Even here, I have all assets:
Health (this is failing all right, but not failing fast).
Shelter (it's even colder outside, if I could only remember).
Clothing (I'm ideally dressed for this esoteric sport).
Food (I'm losing a few pounds a week but this is not star-
Cigarettes, five supplied each day.
A book with poetry in it I haven't memorized yet.
186 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The poetry which I have memorized (this is in my head and
can't be taken from me I think).
Half a set of checkers made from bread crust and cheese
wrapping (the possibility of creating a game).
Thread raveled from my stocking top (the possibility of
creating a way to sew).
Certain psychological strengths:
Sometimes I look hopefully for a way to get something good
out of this.
I believe I can remember enough of this to report it (how
I have not been convulsively frightened.
IVe seen "my job" as to stay sane and sign nothing unless
I originate it. So far I have done it (if I'm sure I know what
I mean by "sane," that is).
There is a body of information I will not give the interrogator.
I've decided what it is and how I'll answer questions which
come close to it. The asset is I've decided now.
Probably the biggest single asset is my hunch that there is a
don't-mark-up-the-American-now order on rne. (A woman
held four years in F6 Street told me after I was released that
this was most improbable. But the hunch was an asset.)
I still care very much whether or not I: How much?
kill myself 5
am hanged 3
am raped by the guards 10
am tortured 2-10
Probably the greatest liability this side of Moscow is the
built-in indifference of the prison system.
My interrogations were now being held two or three times
a week. The shortest lasted about two hours; the longer
sessions where I would be questioned without being given
food or water sometimes covered six or seven hours.
The Long Wait 187
The setting was a bare prison office so cold the AVO people
wrapped blankets around their hips over their overcoats.
I wore just what I did in the cell headscarf, overcoat and
the one glove, with the bare hand balled deep in my pocket
as I stood. When the interrogator dipped his pen in the
inkwell to make his notes, I always listened for the ink to
I would be placed on one side of a deep desk and small
table facing the light, of course. On the far side sat a man
and a woman. He was an erect, hawk-nosed, thin dark man
in his thirties, a professional. (I once speculated that if he
had been in his strange business all his life, his bosses must
have included the old Hungarian regent Prince Horthy,
Adolf Hitler, the Red puppet dictator Matyos Rakosi and
the present Soviet stooge Janos Kadar as wide a political
assortment as I could imagine.) His job was to ask the ques-
The woman was an interpreter. Not yet twenty-five, pud-
ding-faced, often blank-eyed behind rimless glasses. She would
ostentatiously repair her make-up at the desk (I, of course,
had none) or comb her soft-waved brown hair (mine fell
down my back through a fraying rubber band). Her final
words to me when I'd been more than a month in solitary
were, "We think you Ye stuck-up/' a characterization that,
under the circumstances, I greatly treasured.
At the beginning of each interrogation, Puddin' Face
would push over to me the records from the previous session.
Hawk Face would offer me a pen. I would say, "I will not
sign your record." Hawk Face would take the pen and neatly
sign my name.
He might begin, "Why have you not complained about the
"I suppose the food is the same as every prisoner is getting."
He would look rhapsodic. "Oh, but you must know that
188 What's A Woman Doing Here?
the food outside is wonderful. Hungarian cooking is famous.
Can you remember eating it when you were in Hungary the
I thought, this is pure B-movie dialogue. But before the
thought was finished, I realized why Hawk Face had said it.
I was choking from the saliva in my mouth, my subconscious
having remembered well about Hungarian cooking even if
I had decided to forget.
The companion piece to this question was, "You say you
are not married, but is there not a man you love? What is he
doing while you are here?"
I said, "If there is, he must be consorting with another
woman by now." Puddin' Face had trouble translating this,
and the subject never came up again.
Hawk Face might begin a session baldly with, "Have you
Once I replied, "You have not listed me under my own
name in the prison records." I pointed to a folder on his
desk. The tab was marked MEYER, my middle name. "If
anyone inquired about me, of course no record would be
This was no great point nor do I remember that I won it.
But what had really frightened me were the occasional visits
of the prison census taker to my cell. He carried a large
indexed notebook and he always made a production out of
paging through all twenty-six letters of the alphabet without
seeming to find any entry for me. He would then turn to the
guards who accompanied him on his rounds, look bewildered
and snap shut the book, shaking his head. This prisoner
just doesn't exist*
One day the subject of interrogation was my capture.
Hawk Face took my passport from a file cabinet behind
The Long Wait 189
him and waved it in my face. "Did you have a visa when our
policemen arrested you?"
The passport was bare of visa, of course. I had never
thought of getting one to work in a border area open In one
direction and marked by gunfire in the other. Hawk Face
went on, "You must know that you would not have been
arrested if you had shown our border police a visa/*
I could have cheered. "If they had asked me for a visa,
I'd have had none to show them. But your soldiers on the
border did not ask anything. They just opened fire on me
with an automatic weapon and three rifles from twenty yards.
And they didn't even hit me." I paused and plunged on.
"I do think their marksmanship was very bad."
This turned out to be no ineffective sally. Puddin' Face
translated with sparks in her eye. Hawk Face's professional
mask slipped. He leaned forward and spat every word.
"If our men had not been under direct orders not to
hit a single person- do you think you would be alive today?"
I felt a f|ash of exultation through the cold. At that instant,
I would rather have been where I was than anywhere on
earth. I was a reporter again and only incidentally a prisoner.
Back in Vienna we had only been able to speculate about
the real attitude of the Kadar government toward the es-
capees who couldn't be halted by the sight of so much shoot-
ing. Here was the answer the border guards were under
orders to miss. And it was a totally authoritative answer to
why we never found a wounded refugee. (This report does
not detract from the real risk accepted by every fleeing
Hungarian, something more terrible than death by gunfire.
This was the risk of being rounded up and hanged elsewhere
or sent as slave labor to Russia.)
My own execution was, of course, a favorite theme of
Hawk Face's. He began one session saying portentously, "You
have been tried in absentia and found guilty of conspiring
190 What's A Woman Doing Here?
against the Peoples' Democracy of Hungary. But we will not
hang you today. The papers on your case are not complete."
The next time it was, "You say you were not a journalist
when we captured you. We know you are lying. We will
hang you as soon as we are able to prove you were a photog-
rapher for Life. As soon as we find your camera"
At this juncture my brown glove felt as big as a suckling
pig. Hawk Face did not miss this. He snapped, "Where did
you lose your other glove?"
I said I didn't know and he never referred to it again. But
so surely had the glove become a symbol of my hanging in
my mind, that it made me gag to put it on.
Then came a session with a different pattern. Ferri was in
the room behind the desk when the guard pushed me through
the door. I had not known that he was being held in the
same prison. He was unbelievably gaunt and utterly erect.
Hawk Face interrupted my greeting to say that FerrFs story
and mine did not agree and he intended to find out who was
Ferri's voice overrode Hawk Face's for a sentence. He
said to me in German that he had received word through
a newly-arrived prisoner about OH. OH was safely back in
Vienna; * he had successfully evaded capture.
I had always insisted to Hawk Face that our patrol had
been of only two people. Now Ferri had told him we'd been
I grunted to Hawk Face, "What he saysit's true/*
"Why didn't you admit this other man was with you be-
fore?" Hawk Face wanted to know.
"I don't even know his name now," I countered.
Ferri was led out of the room and my questioning went on.
* "OH" is Zoltan Dienes, as I write this just as much a New Yorker as
I am. After his escape, he emigrated to the U.S., and now works for the
company which supplies the big city its electricity, Consolidated Edison.
The Long Wait 191
The second week in January, the deadly patient character
of my interrogations changed. Hawk Face suddenly was in a
hurry. I said, "I refuse to answer any further questions/'
He raised his black eyebrows. "Then I will ask you several
more that it is not necessary that you answer. I already know
the answers. First, are you alone in your cell? Second, are
not all your guards men?"
He paused so I would have time to grasp that rape was
what he meant.
Then he took a deep breath and picked up the question
he'd been asking before. "Tell in detail what you did on the
evening of December fifth."
"I refuse to answer any further questions."
Hawk Face made it necessary for me to repeat myself.
Finally he sounded harassed like any policeman the world
over. After I had been taken back to my cell, I was reminded
that he wasn't.
When the wooden tray with pieces of bacon fat was carried
on the round of cell doors, it was shown to me through the
Judas window. But I didn't get any. A little later a young
guard with a pointed, dimpled jaw came into my cell, alone.
He was carrying a pair of plumbers* pliers about a foot and
a half long.
"Betegf" he asked cheerfully. Are you sick?
"Nem beteg" I replied, not cheerfully at all. I am not
The guard began using broad gestures so I would be sure
to follow what he was saying without needing to know the
"Open your mouth. Are you sure you don't want a tooth
pulled?" He made the appropriate noise. "Wouldn't you
really like the front ones out?"
He held the pliers loosely, handles projecting. He bounced
one handle gently against his own uneven front teeth.
192 What's A Woman Doing Here?
He was about six feet away and his smile had faded.
A second guard came into the cell, fast. The two seemed
to have a brief difference of opinion without looking at me.
They left together.
At breakfast the following day it was a piece of jam that
was slid toward me through the Judas window, then with-
drawn. I realized that this deprivation of food had only to
happen a few more times before the business with the pliers
was going to have a sadly dramatic effect. I recognized my
weakness: I cared whether my teeth were knocked out. But
what would happen if I acted as if I didn't, as if I seemed to
take the whole thing no more seriously than Pointed Jaw
had when he first came into the cell?
I had a chance that evening to find out.
Pointed Jaw was back, he smiled, he asked if I were sick.
I shook my head and tried to remember the sensation of a
He put his glowing cigarette between his lips and tucked
the pliers under his arm. He spread out his own hands in
front of him and indicated I was to do the same.
The last photograph I'd made before I was captured
showed the spread hands of a woman escapee in this position.
The AVO in Fo Street had torn off every one of her finger-
nails and ground out two cigarettes on the back of one hand.
So I thought I knew what the guard meant.
He assumed I might be less well informed. So he put the
pliers around the short, dirty nail of his own index finger
and turned the tool.
I remember how silly I thought it was at the time that
both of us were still smiling. But very tentatively, as if I
were puzzled, I reached toward the handle of the pliers. It
flashed over me that here was a real weapon almost in my
hand! But I was too slow; two other guards crowded into the
cell, and the pliers were no weapon against three. My origi-
The Long Wait 193
nal idea, though, looked more sound than ever. The bigger
the audience, the better.
My own nails, untended for weeks, were long. Gently, I
took the pliers the guard did not try to withhold them.
Carefully as if it were important to do it right, I closed the
jaws over my own index finger nail. I rotated it till it stung,
stopped, smiled and looked up at the row of faces of the
guards. I said in English, "You do it like that, huh?"
The words wouldn't mean anything but I hoped the
inflection would carry pure curiosity. It probably was the
oldest reporter's trick in the world trying to get somebody
so interested in showing off the workings of their job that
all the implications are lost in the shuffle.
I didn't quite bring it off. The last guard to come in
grabbed the pliers from me and the three of them left with-
out another word.
As they slammed home the bolts of the cell door, I felt
a flicker of warmth in my heart. And the beginning of wis-
dom. This wasn't brainwashing.
Never again would I say Red brainwashing with all its
overtones of the occult, the mysterious, the irresistible. Sure
they could torture and kill me. But my brain was not the
target of their system. I did not even think the Reds had
assaulted the brain of their most celebrated prisoners.
The will was the target. And this was the familiar target
of all human combat since Cain and Abel. However terrible
and perverted the assault, it was not new. The real proba-
bility was that I would meet it just like any other assault
devised by human beings. I would fight or run. I would win
or lose. I would live or die. But I was not menaced by the
What the Reds were trying to do was to peel back my will
like the layers of an onion. My will was to go on being a
woman journalist from America named Chapelle, a member
194 What's A Woman Doing Here?
of a loving family, above all a human being. Their will was
that I become a tool and nothing more.
The Spanish Inquisition, the Gestapo, the Czar's secret
police, the precinct house of a gangster-run city, the AVO
prison in Budapest it was all in one tradition. I could feel
the warning of its erosion on me already, but my weakening
had not come about by dark magic. The old rules still held
good in this as in any other conflict between human beings.
If you fought hard enough, whatever was left of you after-
ward would not be found stripped of honor.
13. The Sentence
At TWILIGHT on January 14, 1957, handcuffed to a stan-
chion in the back of a windowless truck, I was transferred
out of the F6 Street prison into another jail. This one was
on Marco Street in the Pest section of the city. I had been
told only that I would be held there until it suited the con-
venience of the Communists to try me.
Under the submachine guns of a pair of women guards,
one wearing diamond earrings, I was delivered into Cell No.
21. It was not a solitary cell. There were eight other women
in it. They were all Hungarian and all, I believe, accused
of crimes in connection with the revolution. Among them,
I enjoyed a night of almost pure euphoria, weeping sound-
lessly with joy to be with other human beings again. Never
mind that we could not understand a word of each other's
language. To see them, to hear their voices, to touch their
hands, to know that I had never really been the only person
left alive this was enough.
My trial was held thirteen days later.
I woke up that morning, I remember, with a new sense of
well-being. It had nothing to do with the machinations of
Red justice. But I'd come into possession of a corner of the
cell for my own home, my own place. And with eight of us
in the ten-by-twelve-foot cell, this was a reason to be happy.
196 What's A Woman Doing Her el
I didn't have any right to the good corner. By seniority,
the Dying Tubercular or the Poetess * should have taken
it when the Old Pro had been transferred out of our cell
the previous day. (She had been a bricklayer but I thought
of her as a professional revolutionary after she showed me
shell scars "from the Russians" ten years old.) The dying girl
had helped install me in the good place and the rest of my
cell mates had volubly approved, as if my occupying it would
make up for my not knowing how to talk with them.
The Tubercular, serene as a madonna although probably
she would not live to be twenty, was handing the top of the
drinking water pail back to the Poetess. The sick girl ha-
bitually kept it full, beside her straw-sack bed, so she could
swallow the flat white pills she needed at night to control her
At the foot of my straw sacks stood the Silent One, folding
the two thin blankets of the girl whose sleeping place was
alongside hers. This was the New Girl, plump with flying
blond hair, and she needed help because her arm was in a
sling made from her red scarf. Her wrist and hand had been
torn by a shell fragment during the fighting in October, and
the scar eight inches long and livid still ran from forearm
to palm over the knitting wrist bone. It was not knitting
This old wound was one reason she was here, she had told
us with such vivid gestures that I understood. When the
police arrested her during a street demonstration the previous
week, she acted out how she could have fought her way
treeif she'd only had the use of two arms. Now, as her cell
mate made up her sacks, she painfully tried to slip the crip-
* Before 1 left the cell, I knew most of the women's names. But I have
omitted them here because it's hideously probable that some are still im-
prisoned. Being named in an American book would mean they'd have at
least one rough session with their Communist interrogators.
The Sentence 197
pled arm through the torn sleeve of her rumpled red dress.
The Child Striker occupied the sack next to hers. Just
seventeen and a virgin, I'm sure, she was the youngest,
prettiest, most vain and petulant of us all. We spoiled her
just as I'm sure she had been spoiled outside of prison. No,
we spoiled her more. Because we could not think of a way
to express our own femininity; we glared at guards, men or
women, and tried to defy them or did what they told us
to do pokerfaced. But the teen-ager only came alive at the
mention or sight of a man and did not care at all if he wore
a sadist's uniform. To her, he was someone for whom you
laughed or cried or pouted or flashed your eyes or posed.
While the rest of us stood or lounged unmoving during the
guards' inspections, she would quite unconsciously finger
and drape her torn-edged, wrinkled and faded purple scarf
and follow his every move with dark liquid eyes.
Of course, the male warders openly indulged her as much
as they dared; the women guards hated her heartily. And
we in the cell just babied her shamelessly. If she said her
tonsils hurt (and she did, six days out of seven), we made
sympathetic noises and let her sleep, her black hair in im-
provised curl papers emerging from the cocoon of dirty
Only the Murderess was really energetic at this hour. (I
thought of her by that name because murder was the crime
for which she was being tried, but I meant no opprobrium
by it.) A grave and graceful woman in her thirties, she was
our acknowledged leader. She told fortunes, rationed water,
distributed food and censored the cross-currents of impulse
that could turn our small world from cloister to arena in a
The Murderess was gazing across the cell at me expectantly.
Today I was to be tried. I shivered faintly and then felt it
was better to shiver at a thought than it had been to tremble
198 What's A Woman Doing Here?
from the cold back in the F6 Street prison. Here on Marco
Street the heating system somehow functioned for a few hours
every other day, and the cell temperature rarely sank so far
that the cold hurt.
I began to dress myself in what I thought of as my "clean
clothes." Most of what I could wear, of course, was exactly
what I was wearing when I had been captured more than
seven weeks before.
There were bright red longies and brown tweed slacks,
bought in New York right after World War II to take to
work in European refugee camps. And the green socks which
I was wearing upside down now that is, putting my foot
into the upper end because the sock feet were worn through.
Often I felt panic when I thought of what would happen
after the whole sock wore through as it would in a few more
months. I had nothing to put on my feet but my gleaming
laceless boots. And boots in hot weather without socks Fll
have blisters all next summer, I fretted.
At this point I faced a conflict about clothes, a choice
most of my cell mates would never have to make. I had two
sweaters a most appropriate black one from Vienna and a
yellow orlon, a fluffy garment with a gentle tint. It had been
in the cardboard box that American Consul Richard Selby
had left on the one occasion he had been permitted to visit
me. That had happened a week earlier, and I was still
heartened by his bravery in walking coolly into a Red prison,
even on an official errand.
The consul's box was now my personal treasure chest.
It sat beside my straw-sack bed, holding the three magazines,
the four newspapers, the broken-backed dictionary and the
spare cotton chemise and stockings the consul had also
brought me. (My German poetry book was not there; of
course I hadn't been permitted to bring it from one prison
to the other.) The box contained some paper wrappings, too;
The Sentence iyy
these had once held chocolate bars and a home-made choco-
late cake, gift of the consul's wife. There was also the emptied
yellow container from a pound of lump sugar. The last of
the presents that had been in the small carton was not yet
empty. It stood on the wide wood window sill above the
Child Striker's sleeping head. The huge printing on it was
the only written word to be seen in the cell. TIDE. My
cell mates would not use the precious powder for mundane
dishes that is, our eight tin bowls or the washing of our
underclothes. On the Murderess' indisputable orders, the
TIDE was reserved for hairwashing only. Incidentally, we
pronounced the word "Tee-day."
I decided to wear the yellow sweater to my trial just be-
cause it was incongruous. Then I shook out my blankets and
inspected the press that my sleeping body had put into my
outer garment, a green wool hunting shirt as old as my slacks.
I'd rinsed it in a few inches of ice-cold water the day before
and painstakingly folded it into the blanket I slept on. It
looked surprisingly neat now. Who needs a flatiron? I thought
and put it on. I was now dressed for the day, Red justice or
The sky was still unlightened outside the two barred win-
dows of the cell but the Murderess began her daily hair-
dressing stint. There were three among us, whose hair was
long and one after the other we would sit on the end of our
one bench till she had ministered to us. Usually I was the
last. Today she made the others wait and took the broken
red half-comb (all the comb I had) out of my hand first. She
was saying that today was the American's trial.
She always gave us the same hair style and it is still the
only one I know by which even my mane of straight locks
will hold a bun all day without a single pin, comb, net or
clip. The double colored rubber band which I'd been per-
mitted to keep when I came to prison had finally broken, and
200 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I'd had visions of spending years behind a curtain of my own
But the Murderess had fixed that. Her system was to twist
back a strand of hair from the scalp near each temple. Then
she knotted the two strands again and again at almost the top
of the head, sometimes braiding in a bit of burlap thread
from one of the straw sacks. Next she curled up and tucked
over the rope of knotted hair the whole remaining mane,
creating a fine full bun. The hairdo even gave us a pretty
Before the Murderess was done with her last customer,
the guards outside the cell were shouting Shay-tah! We were
to have our exercise today; seta in Magyar means promenade.
We reached for our outer coats hung on a row of pegs
in one wall. The New Girl's was buttoned tenderly over her
sling by the Tubercular and we formed a double line just
inside the gray steel cell door. Only the Child Striker elected
contrary to prison rules to stay behind, dressing slowly as if
she were choosing each garment from a great wardrobe.
Then our line became part of a river of shabby women,
shuffling through the gray corridor, down five flights of half-
lit steel steps, curving back on ourselves in the basement
beside the cabbage smells of the steel-barred kitchen door.
We went a little slower past the landings on each of the
lower floors. There were men prisoners on those floors and
we could see their cell doors through the heavy mesh which
divided the stair well from the cell blocks. Sometimes a girl
would call out from her place in line just a greeting, never
a name in the hope that her voice would mean something
to someone behind those doors.
There was a guard, man or woman and always armed,
every half-dozen paces, and a word openly spoken by one
of us would earn a yell of reprimand directed at us all and
echoed up and down the line.
The Sentence 201
Still in our double file, we would be led out of the base-
ment door into a paved courtyard probably a hundred by a
hundred and fifty feet square. It was surrounded by brick
walls twice as high as our heads on two sides, and by cell
buildings on the others. At each end was a weak floodlight
in a circle of gray-white reflector. A railed catwalk manned
by three submachine gunners spanned the middle, its ends
resting on the walls. When you looked up to be sure the
stars were still in the sky, the gunners' silhouettes always
were the foreground of what you saw.
As I had no language in common with my cell mates I
could not use the icy time while we made thirty or forty
circuits of the court to talk with my neighbors as the other
prisoners did. This was hard, too, on the girl whose lot it
fell to walk beside me, and of course there had to be some-
one there. In the past Fd made my apologies for being dull
company with a piece of the consul's lump sugar, which was
good anti-freeze as well as a sensual pleasure. But the last
of the sugar had been eaten and I could only tell the Mur-
deress, who had taken the silent spot beside me, how sorry
I was by smiling.
Perhaps because I could not talk, the exercise period to
me was always one of immersion in a special mood. The
scene was hypnotic the purple dawn, the falling snow, the
yellow floodlights, the inexorable shuffling movement that
always brought us only back where we'd been, the pacing
gunners overhead and the inert alertness of the warders
on our level, one of them stationed every few yards.
To me, this was the Balkans and the history books, the
symbol of Napoleon's failure and Hitler's, the meaning of
the mortality of tyrants. Their vaunted dominance over
destiny always reduced itself to this puling realitythe living
dead acting out a pantomime in which the guards were as
much prisoners as the people they guarded. And I was deeply
202 What's A Woman Doing Here?
glad that the only American around was not one of the
Sometimes I felt something quite close to exaltation in
those purple dawns; I simply knew that however uncom-
fortable I might be, historically I was in the right company.
Earlier in the week, I'd been a victim of a peculiar Red
trick. My original Summons to Trial was a little half-sheet
of cheap yellow paper, a printed form, that said I was to be
tried before Judge Lorant Timar in Courtroom 295 on the
second floor of the Precinct Headquarters building which
Yd been told adjoined the prison. A plump elderly Hun-
garian man who said he had been named to act as my
attorney by the consul had studied the paper closely. I'd
shown it to him during the two ten-minute conferences we'd
been allowed in a cellar cubicle of the prison, both of us
standing as ordered in line with the barrel of a guard's
submachine gun (no one then could later say that I had
been denied the right to "confer" with my attorney before
trial). He confirmed to me that the stated charge was illegal
border crossing, a felony carrying a five-year penalty. He had
copied into his notebook the courtroom number, the name
of the judge, the wording of the charge.
But as soon as I was taken back to my cell, I'd received a
second summons. It said I was to be tried before a different
judgea woman, and in a different courtroom. Room 111
on the first floor of the building.
So, as I paced around the courtyard, silent beside the
Murderess, I knew what would happen. In a few hours I'd
be on trial in one room while my attorney and the consul
went to another. What were the odds that they'd find out
where I was in time to come there? Certainly not worth
speculating about. A Red trial on a relatively minor charge,
as Communist charges went, should not take an hour.
The Sentence 203
Back In the cell, it was breakfast time. About eight ounces
of brown, luke-warm acorn brew and a dry chunk of dark
bread. Each of us took a bowl and gulped the contents. That
The real prison day was now well begun and we slumped
with the sullen sense of anti-climax that we always felt at
this hour. We could expect no interruption except oh,
yes my being sent for to be tried.
The Murderess had broken one of the most important
prison rules, important in a gypsy nation, that is. She had
created out of soap-containers two sets not one, but two!
of fortune telling cards, each a deck of thirty-two.
Now she drew me aside and indicated that she wanted to
prophesy my trial. We sat on the end of the Tubercular 's
straw sacks and the Murderess dealt the cards a dozen times.
The ones that turned up time and again signified death, a
woman, a letter and a lawyer.
The cards had barely been returned to their hiding place
behind the sheet metal water container when a woman guard
opened the cell door and motioned to me. "Meyer," she said,
and hurried me when I stopped to take my overcoat off the
We left the cell-block building through the sour-smelling
basement and crossed a cobblestone court. Here a second
woman guard joined the first and the three of us wove
through a cellar labyrinth of corridors, each policed by its
own armed man warder, until suddenly we came through
wide wooden doors onto a snowy sidestreet. I halted, blinked
at the gray open sky. The girls apparently assumed I was
getting ready to run. They shifted their weapons and one
quickly grasped each of my arms. But I did not deserve this
I almost earned it a moment later, though. We started
204 What's A Woman Doing Heref
to cross the street and had to wait for a fast-moving vehicle
to pass first. I realized in order thatit was gray, it had a
familiar silhouette, it was a Ford station wagon, there were
two men in the front seat and it had an American flag on
the windshield! At least, I knew the consul and my attorney
had not been tricked from coming to the right neighborhood
at the right hour.
We entered the municipal court building, climbing broad
steps and passing in rigidly correct order (prisoner in the
middle) through two wide doors. More stairs, more corridors.
But no barred windows and no other guards.
On one stair-landing we were unobserved and I indicated
that I wanted to stop a minute. The guards were impatient
until I took one of my six remaining cigarettes out of my
coat pocket. I gestured to show I'd share it although I didn't
want to since we had not been issued cigarettes for five days
so I had not smoked since the previous week. One of the
guards lit the cigarette and each of us had half a dozen
deep drags from it.
I needed that pause as well as the taste of the tobacco.
There was something I wanted to think about.
What should I do if I recognized anyone as I came into
the courtroom? Would they want me to know them or not?
They won't, and don't do it,, growled a mental voice. Beside,
there won't be anybody.
But as the women started me moving down the marble-
floored halls again, a ragged fragment of my mind began
to play with one of my favorite fantasies.
// they decide not to dispense with legal formalities, and
if they figure out something to accuse you of publicly, and if
there ever is an indictment (do they have indictments under
what the Reds call law?), and if they ever set a trial date,
and if it is a public trial, and if you're still news, and if the
U.S. press covers, and if it's the Associated Press that's there,
The Sentence 205
and if there are any American reporters still in Budapest-
wouldn't it be good if the reporter were Carl Hartmann?
Carl, of course, had been the last AP man with whom I'd
The girls swung back the double carved wooden doors of
what was obviously a courtroom. I was conscious of a high
judge's bench to my left and a few rows of wooden seats on
the other side. But in the middle of the picture was a man's
face, almost larger-than-life. Caught in a wholly uncontrolled
wave of emotion but not quite forgetting my earlier reso-
lution, I winked slowly, deliberately, joyously. It was Carl
Shortly I was seated on a bench, a woman guard to my
right and Ferri, even more wan and gaunt than the last time
I'd seen him, to my left. Our respective warders had sternly
ordered us not to speak so we only murmured each other's
names in greeting, barely moving our lips like the veteran
convicts we were becoming.
My wonder at the AP's presence was growing it proved
that my trial was in fact a propaganda gimmick, a show trial.
The Kadar government wanted these proceedings known in
the West. Were they for the purpose of freeing me? Or to
justify my being held? Certainly the decision had been taken
somewhere, some time before Carl was permitted to set foot
in the building. Which decision had it been?
I tried to keep my eyes and head facing the empty judge's
seat. A moment later I heard English English! addressed
to me. Consul Selby, lanky, blonde and assured, stood behind
me. He was holding a package of cigarettes over my shoulder.
"Take these/' he greeted me, "and well have you out of
here before you can smoke them." The courtroom filled up
while Ferri and I each drew deeply on our cigarettes; it prob-
ably would have accommodated fifty people comfortably.
Soon at least a hundred were standing or sitting behind me.
206 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The physical arrangements were not dissimilar to any other
courtroom the world over. The bench was higher than my
head and reached from one side of the room to the other.
The defense attorney sat at an angle to the bench, to the left.
The Public Prosecutor's desk was in the same position on the
other side. The prisoners' bench completed the fourth side
of the rectangle.
Judge Timar, thin-featured and gray-haired, took his place
behind the bench. He was flanked now by two men on one
side, and two women, one holding an open fountain pen, on
the other. As he sat down, an elderly pink-faced interpreter
whom Fd met in the Prosecutor's office at my final interro-
gation a few days earlier took a place almost in front of me.
He explained to me now that only such parts of the trial as
Judge Timar considered affected me would be translated.
The court was called to order with no more ceremony than
a club meeting. The first part of the procedure was direct
questioning of me, for two hours by my guard's wrist watch.
But the questions weren't asked by either attorney. Each had
only a small part in my later questioning. The trial was
clearly the judge's show.
He began, "What is your name?" I said it and my voice
cracked like a teen-age boy's. I was horrified. This will never
do; you'll be called an automaton. I knew the reason for my
unfamiliarity with the mechanism of speaking out. But for
twenty minutes' talk with Consul Selby, I had not said one
word in a normal manner for nearly two months. Either I'd
been under interrogation or I'd been struggling to make my-
self undestood to someone with whom I shared no common
The next questions were the three that preceded every
interrogation session. Where were you born? What was your
mother's name? Your father's name? My voice steadied.
Then came a hard question to answer with a Communist
The Sentence 207
judge in front and a reporter from a free press behind me.
"Have you any complaints to make about your treatment?"
I considered being held thirty-eight days incommunicado
in solitary confinement to say nothing of cold, hunger and
intimidation deserving of outspoken complaint. But the
consul's attitude had suggested I just might get out if I didn't
rock the boat too hard at this point. My attorney's advice had
been pedantic. He said the reply was to be a flat no. But I was
increasingly aware of Carl. He had to tell the world not what
best served my worthy purpose freedom but what I had said
in the courtroom.
I answered, "No" and laughed out loud. It was a strange
sound. And disappointingly brief. But later, when I asked
Carl how he'd quote my reply, he said, "That you answered
'no' and laughed."
Then came the even more operative question. "Are you
I was determined not to come out of a Red secret police
cell babbling that I was guilty of anything. I would not use
This decision had troubled my attorney deeply, I remem-
bered. Fd told him I could not have broken any law safe-
guarding the border. Yd seen the border law so poorly
enforced that 250,000 people flouted it in a few weeks. The
attorney had simply stared wide-eyed at me as I said this.
So now in the courtroom I replied in a monotone, "I did
not intend to break your laws and I did not know that I was
doing so. From what you have told me I suppose I must
Then I waited for someone to snap at me, Guilty or not
guilty? Nobody did. Judge Timar picked up smoothly, "Why
did you come to Hungary?"
I had so often heard the question phrased "escape to Hun-
208 What's A Woman Doing Here?
gary" that I almost forgot to answer him In my surprise at
the correct semantics.
"1 wanted to bring a token gift of medicine from my people
to the Hungarian people/*
' 'What was the political significance of what you did?"
This one took me completely aback. "Your Honor will
have to decide that/' I stalled. "I guess the best evidence is
the area into which I brought the medicine/'
This was good and ambiguous.
"Who sent you to Hungary?"
We were back on familiar ground. I tried to look just as
shocked as I always tried to look.
"Sent me to Hungary? I was not sent to Hungary/ 1
"On whose behalf did you come to Hungary?"
"An American humanitarian agency known as the Inter-
national Rescue Committee."
"You were ordered to Hungary by them?"
"I was not ordered. I was authorized to go where I con-
The judge and the interpreter conferred. The judge looked
"Where were you when our guards fired at you?"
"I don't know." I said it automatically because I had said
it so often before. But I was trying to conceal amazement as
I spoke. I'd been sure the Reds would never publicly admit
they'd fired on an American relief worker involved with
nothing more combatant than antibiotics from Brooklyn!
"What did you do then?" Judge Timar wanted to know.
"I was at gunpoint so I did what I was told. I walked a long
I stole a glance over at the prosecutor. I actually expected
him to interrupt his own magistrate in this line of question-
ing because it seemed to be I was being invited to document
The Sentence 209
his government's barbarism. But he was not even listening;
he was idly doodling.
"When did you show your papers?' *
"Many hours after I was captured. No one said anything to
me in any language I understood for almost a day."
It was now obvious to me that this was just a game to all
the other participants. Perhaps they saw no implication dis-
creditable to their government in the story. Perhaps there was
a more devious reason. The performance would have looked
like a genuine trial that is, as if some issue of fact or law
was actually being elicited, weighed and judged.
Ferri's testifying followed mine. I could not understand any
word, of course, of what he said or of what was said by two
Hungarian witnesses I'd never seen before who averted their
faces from him as they talked. I could sense that their words
were like blows to him. He was trembling before they were
done but his face was still rigidly impassive.
I knew I had grown cold and hungry again. I thought I
would probably miss the midday feeding in the cell, and that
since it was Saturday, the judge would continue the case till
next week. Good, I thought, Then I'll get the regular Sunday
piece of bacon to eat.
Now the prosecutor was making his closing remarks. He
urged a light sentence for me "out of the humanitarianism
of the glorious Hungarian people's democracy." I wondered
what the word "light" might mean if he was using it in the
same way as the other words.
Judge Timar spoke briefly to the whole courtroom and
arose. The interpreter leaned over to tell me that the magis-
trate had dismissed us "for half an hour only."
My guard led me out into the corridor, crowded now. The
consul and the attorney met me there, both pokerfaced. "It
will be two hours at least but they will have the verdict
ready/' said the lawyer.
210 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The consul added, "We'll get you something to eat from
outside. Wait on that bench over there." Grimly he handed
me two more packages of cigarettes. "It's not as though we
still didn't have a chance/' he finished, emphasizing the last
word forlornly. I was almost moved to say something com-
forting to him.
For long minutes, the woman guard and I sat on the bench
in the ice cold corridor while spectators and officials milled
around us. Then a round-faced Hungarian woman I did not
know, her face stained with recent tears, was standing in front
of me speaking in German.
"You're not eating/' she said with anxiety in her voice. She
sat down beside me and unpacked a cloth shopping bag. In-
side was a brown paper parcel. She unwrapped it and took
out half a loaf of black bread, two long plump links of pork
sausage and a pound chunk of bacon with no lean streak in
it at all. This was more solid food than I had seen since my
capture, and I couldn't take my eyes from it. She broke off a
piece of bacon and held it out to me.
I knew I ought to refuse. Bacon was expensive and her
clothes were not those of a rich person. I did not refuse.
"You are hungry," she observed nodding sadly. Then she
held out a sausage and a large piece of bread which she had
torn off the loaf.
I took one of these in hand and ate my way without pausing
down to my own dirty fingers. Then I licked them, dirt and
all. I still cannot think of that woman's generosity or of the
taste of that food without the tears filling my eyes.
Now she wrapped the other sausage first in bread and then
in paper. "Put it in your pocket for your cell mates/' she
said. I wondered how she knew I suddenly was seized with
guilt, having eaten good food the others could not share.
"Of course," she finished matter-of-factly, "you'll be sick.
Those sausages should have been cooked."
The Sentence 211
"No, I won't/' I said quickly (and I wasn't). Even before
I had finished thanking her, she melted into the crowd. The
consul and my attorney came back then with a wax-paper
wrapped sandwich. I ate half quickly and put the other in
my pocket for the women in Cell No. 21.
The consul began to explain miserably, "Now there's a
jurisdictional dispute about you."
The court reconvened. Judge Timar began to speak and
there was no translation. It was a long and emphatic oration.
I counted all the pieces of wood inlay on the front of the
bench. I recited Gray's Elegy from end to end. I made a
mistake in the eighteenth verse and made myself go back to
the beginning. My mind thought it had caught the Magyar
word for "year" in the judge's speech. Or was it "years"?
Either makes sense, I thought.
Then the interpreter ordered me to rise. I did. Some part
of my mind was pleased to notice that I did not feel any
emotion except a real compulsion to keep on standing up
The judge spoke directly to me, still in Magyar of course,
for about ten minutes. This time I could not understand
any word at all. Finally the interpreter took over.
"His Honor says you have been judged guilty. His Honor
says that you are sentenced to the fifty days you have served
already. His Honor says you hereby are expelled from Hun-
gary forever. Is there anything you wish to say? Do you
understand the sentence?"
I said no and yes to the questions and sat down numbly.
Ferri stood up. He was sentenced to seven months imprison-
ment less the two he had served already.
I was still sure they had no intention of letting me go now
either. Why, then, a sentence that would permit the Ameri-
can government to ask for me at once? The consul's own
words supplied the answer jurisdictional dispute. He'd ex-
212 What's A Woman Doing Here?
plained that the question was whether the Ministry of the
Interior or the Foreign Office would be responsible, for the
record, for my release. Neither of course wanted to do it.
Right there I stopped wondering. In a Red puppet govern-
ment, such a hassle could easily take months or years to settle.
But the consul was speaking up in court. He asked that I
be released into his custody on the spot, saying the American
minister would be responsible for my leaving the country
"within forty-eight hours/' the words from my sentence.
The judge, the prosecutor, my attorney and the consul
debated this point for a long time. The outcome, the in-
terpreter told me, was that such an arrangement was not
disagreeable if, of course, it was legally possible which it
probably was not.
That figures, I thought. But suddenly I was gripped
fiercely by an uncontrollable desire. I could stand not being
freed since this outcome was what I'd expected but if all
these wonderful people, people who were not-enemies, who
spoke English, who considered me a person, if all of them
just walked out of the courtroom now without my ever hav-
ing had a chance to talk to them, just talk to them . . .
The consul and my attorney converged on me. I was get-
ting out now, they said. Well if they could figure out how
to satisfy a few technicalities this late on a Saturday after-
The consul said he would get my passport from the prose-
cutor and take it to the Foreign Office to have it imprinted
with the stamp signifying my official expulsion. The attorney
said he would bring me over to the Foreign Office as soon
as a complicated question of transportation taxi? prison
van? with guards? without guards? could be answered. If it
"Well pay for the taxi," the consul threw back over his
The Sentence 213
shoulder as he left. Pure, wonderful Americana, that sen-
tence! I thought.
Only my guard was uninvolved in all this conversation.
She stood, heel of her hand on her pistol butt, just as close to
me as she had when I came into the court. Presently, though,
she and the attorney did have a brief discussion.
"You're to go back to your cell for about twenty minutes,"
he began. "Just to get your ah~things together." As he was
speaking, I could see Carl Hartmann standing behind him.
I was gripped again by the terrible urgency. I didn't care
who else was being taken in by this fiction of my imminent
release, even me. But I didn't want it to be a press associa-
tion, or at least not Carl. I had to almost shout over the
shoulder of my attorney and my guard.
"Carl! Don't file that story!" He smiled, raised his eye-
brows in query, cocked his head a little to one side. I went
on loudly, "They say they're taking me back to my cell for
a few minutes! Please wait across the street for me for
twenty minutes by your watch! Nobody's here to scoop you;
then if you see me come out with earrings in my ears, write
the story. But don't file it before please!"
Carl's answer was succinct. "I'll wait," he called. And he
Now the guard was half-leading, half bumping me through
the corridors, across the snowy street, over the cobblestones,
through the basement of the cell-block building, up the steel
steps. I had had a deep breath of the world outside bars, but
here nothing had changed at all. Nothing would change.
At the third level in the cell building, on the stair landing,
we met Ferri and his guard. The warders let us talk briefly
with each other in German, something that had not hap-
pened since we were captured. The yellow electric bulbs
214 What's A Woman Doing Here?
through the purpling twilight reflected from his heavy fea-
tures. They were impassive no longer.
"My wife I could go crazy worrying about her. She is in
Vienna with the child. She is all alone there."
"Your wife is not all alone, I give you my word if I get
I cannot imagine a more moving conversation than those
two hasty sentences in that anteroom of hell.
Completely subdued, I was taken into Cell No. 21 again.
But something was not as I'd expected it. The guard from
the prosecutor's office was staying with me instead of deliver-
ing me to the floor warden.
Now she motioned for me to get my cardboard carton
ready to take away with me. I was not in any hurry to be
obliging. I thought I was simply being transferred to an-
other cell, and I didn't care how long it took.
I carefully unloaded my pockets of all the food and ciga-
rettes, and I assumed my cell mates 7 first cries of joy were due
to these. But the guard and the Murderess had a short con-
versation and the Murderess suddenly threw her thin arms
around me, kissed me wetly and began to push me toward
the cell door.
My release is real enough to her, I thought, returning the
hug. Then a wave of the last feeling I'd expected over-
whelmed me deep guilt. Guilt that, under whatever circum-
stances, I was leaving these women to whom I owed so much.
The only Magyar phrase I knew that expressed affection
was serat lakI love you. I said it and it sounded right.
The Child Striker hugged me next. "Serat lak" she said
in her little-girl voice. Now all my cell mates were in a half
circle around the door where the guard waited, their arms
reaching for me, each giving me a hard hug and a quick kiss.
I really faltered then. Their joy was so sincere and my own
feeling that I was deserting them so strong . . .
The Sentence 215
Only the New Girl did anything for my anguished con-
science. She burst into angry tears.
I followed the guard back down the stairs where I was
ceremoniously delivered to a male guard waiting at a
vaguely familiar doorway in the basement. Beyond was the
office of the prison property custodian.
For the first instant, I let myself freely imagine that I was
being released. This office was the way out. I remembered
the officer who ran it. Two weeks before when I had been
transferred into the Marco Street prison, he had inventoried
my belongings. A round-faced man with small features and a
gay lilt to his voice, he had not stopped smiling as he worked
even when he handed out a steel-cored rubber hose from a
lower desk drawer to a guard.
Now on his desk lay the belt to my slacks, my rawhide
bootlaces, my scarf and the little canvas bag with a draw-
string which contained, I remembered, my earrings, lipstick,
cigarette lighter, watch and compact.
He handed the belt to me with a little flourish.
I heard myself ask wonderingly, "Sobod?" meaning, is it
permitted for me to put it on?
"Igen, igen" came the cheerful answer. Yes, yes. He means
it, I thought.
He spilled the contents of the canvas bag onto the scarred
desktop. There was a minor mystery. Each of my earrings
was tiny, just a pearl on a shaft. Two weeks ago, the officer
himself had pressed them deep into the red grease of my
lipstick, closing down the top of the case firmly so they
would not be lost. So they should have been covered with
lipstick. But the pair of them, gleaming clean, lay on the
desk, tied with a tiny bow of blue ribbon. Who had removed
the lipstick? Who had tied the bow?
I had a similar question about my cigarette lighter. The
fuel should have evaporated; in theory the lighter had not
216 What's A Woman Doing Here?
been used for more than seven weeks. But it flamed up at
once. Whose cigarettes had it been lighting?
As I shakily tightened the earrings to my lobes and put
the watch back on my wrist, winding and setting it from the
prison wall clock, I began to feel the sensation of confidence
again. But I was chary of it.
When I sat down to begin inserting the long laces into my
boots, though, I knew I did believe that I would be free.
In less than twenty minutes after we'd parted, my attor-
ney, Carl Hartmann and I were together again, standing
across the street from the prison buildings. The fog rolled
around us and the snow fell but it was the most beautiful
weather I had ever seen.
However, I was still in custody. Carl, the consul and the
attorney started for the Foreign Office in the Ford station
wagon. Two armed guards and I started there in the back
of a coughing taxi. The prison van, empty, went too because
the rules demanded it, I was told.
The station wagon was already parked there when we
pulled up in front of the ornate Foreign Office building. In-
side, a harassed little man with a big square rubber stamp
already inked was waiting for us. As we came out of the
building, both of my guards smiled broadly as if to make
clear that they were now there purely socially, as it were.
And the consul was standing beside the open door of the
"Get in/' he said. "The kids have got the car pretty dirty."
I wanted to tell him that was the most beautiful sentence
in the English language but I couldn't articulate at all.
In another half-hour, the station wagon turned off a main
street and passed through a wide-swung pair of wire mesh
gates. Ahead of us rose an imposing, rococo-fronted resi-
dence. On the right gatepost was enameled the Great Seal of
the United States.
The Sentence 217
I gestured toward it. "I'm really behind it again am I
not?" I asked the consul, knowing it sounded silly.
"You are/' he answered gravely, as i it were not silly at
At the great oak door of the house, Minister Thomas
Wailes stepped forward and took one of my dirty hands be-
tween both of his. "We are so glad to see you."
He might have used the same words welcoming me to an
official function but the emotion in his voice belied the
formality. He'd touched a guilty knowledge in my heart. I
thought, the American Minister to Hungary shouldn't be
moved like this, or at least he should be moved to dress me
down. After all, I didn't have a visa.
Then his wife Cornelia was reaching out for me with both
arms. I shrank back more shy than I had ever been in my
"Please/ no, Mrs. Minister I've been in a cell for weeks
with a dying tubercular."
"I don't care," said the minister's wife, and she put her
arms around me and kissed me.
My sudden release left many of my sensibilities as numb as
if they were iced. I also found myself oddly tongue-tied I
who had always had too much to say! So when a dozen of
my fellow reporters met me at Idlewild, they got all too
little out of our interview. With true understanding, they
just quoted my one quotable line: "Thank God I'm an
The Overseas Press Club of New York, which had worked
for my release from the hour the AP wire clicked out the
announcement that I was missing, gave me a family-style
The more my confidence healed from the roughing-up it
had sustained, the more sharply I felt a new need. I was a
218 What's A Woman Doing Heref
story teller, and I had an untold story. Until I had set it
down on paper, I had no heart for anything else.
My report from F6 Street made ugly reading, of course,
and by the time it was done, Hungary was not in headlines
anymore. I knew a few difficult months then, a time when I
needed to remind myself that the first editor to see my cov-
erage of the wounded at Iwo hadn't thought any reader
would want to know about that, either.
I tried to keep on saying my piece, and the outcome was
better than I'd dared to hope. In the end, THE READERS
DIGEST used the personal indictment I'd written of Govern-
ment-by-fear; it was printed in English, in a dozen other
languages and in one hundred and ten countries. Such pub-
lication of the article brought me a sense of the completion
of my Hungarian coverage and, I confess, an ungentle satis-
faction that I'd been able professionally to strike back at the
forces that had held me.
14. Operation Squirrel: Algeria
NOT FAR FROM the United Nations, in a chastely modern
apartment building, are the U.S. Headquarters for the Al-
gerian Federation of National Liberation.
On a still hot day in July, 1957, I had my first interview
there with Abdel Kadar Chanderli, FLN Chief in America
and representative for the UN of the Algerian rebels. Cool
and knowledgeable, Abdel Kadar was talking to me bluntly
about the convulsions of violence between the French and
the Algerians, which he felt were not being reported in the
American press for what they werea war. He reminded me
that Algeria was three times larger than Texas, that it was
bounded on the east and west by great long barriers of
French barbed wire and on the south by the Sahara Desert.
He said the normal flow of information was blocked at every
border, and that it was easy for the French to arrest anyone
delivering reports of FLN tactical movements to the press
associations in the big cities. Airlines and telephones in
Algeria were in French hands, he said, and those in adjoin-
ing Morocco could be monitored by the French, too, since
their troops had not left the country in spite of its nominal
I insisted that, while I thought communiques from any
220 What's A Woman Doing Here?
side of any war were untrustworthy, there must be a way to
get word from the rebels to the American press.
Abdel Kadar nodded. He said there was; he had ar-
ranged to send an American journalist directly from New
York to cover the fighting from the rebel side. He went on,
"It's never been done before." Then, looking deeply hurt,
"Now I can't find anybody who will go."
I asked how long such a trip would take. He said he didn't
know. The reporter would have to be smuggled in, travel on
foot or muleback to the forward areas, and come out under-
"What kind of a story would the reporter get?"
Abdel Kadar looked only pained now. "I don't know. It
depends on the tactical situation while the person is with
"What's the first step?"
"Kidnapping this American correspondent out of Ma-
drid/' he replied.
I thought hard for a long time, although I knew the pro-
posal would not improve by being too carefully considered.
"Right now you need a guinea pig with no dependents, no
commitments, little backing and a positive taste for being a
"You state our position well," came the dry answer.
I began, "I know a member of the U.S. press who meets
the description. But" I paused. A woman on a war assign-
ment in the Arab world?
Abdel Kadar was leaning back and smiling broadly. "Did
you really think I meant to turn you down?" He went on to
tell me he had made sure I was acceptable to his people be-
fore he spoke with me. He had told them I did not mention
the name of any of the Hungarian freedom fighters when I
was interrogated by the AVO.
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 221
I burst out, "But I couldn't have! I made a great point of
never knowing anyone's name!"
Abdel Kadar shook his head and said he didn't believe me.
But on that frail proof of my ability as a conspirator, the
Algerian rested the lives or, at least, the identification of
more than a hundred of his countrymen and the staffs of
Once I made up my mind to go on the mission, there were
only a few more things to be done. I first signed a contract
with Spadea Syndicate, a small press association run by a
father and son, Jim and Sterling Spadea, who accepted my
insistence on secrecy and nonetheless gambled the roundtrip
air fare to Madrid that I'd bring back articles the fifty-five
daily newspapers they serviced would want to print.
Then I packed my cameras and called on Abdel Kadar
again. I told him I wanted a new name. Somehow I didn't
think Chapelle had quite the happiest implications for a
person covering fighting among avowed enemies of France.
"You already have one/' the Arab replied. "We call the
project of moving you and ensuring your safety with our
army OPERATION SQUIRREL." He paused and broke into a
smile. "I decided 'guinea pig' had no poetry. So go now, and
bon courage,, Squirrel."
It was not a great hill, surely not a mountain, the peak the
Algerian soldiers called Black Point. Just a stark knife-edge
rise above a bare ridge stretching almost to the far horizon.
The point itself was not as high as the Empire State Build-
But it marked a real boundary. To the south lay the Al-
gerian Sahara, a vast wasteland unpeopled now in the white
heat of late July. Dimly to the North there rose the Atlas
range, mountains that girdled half North Africa. Between
lay many miles of foothills, the area of responsibility of the
222 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Algerian battalion four hundred uniformed infantrymen
to whom I had been sent.
It was in part to control such areas that French troops had
been released from NATO lines in Europe. But in this mo-
ment, shimmering orange and green and purple under a
setting sun, the rocky hills lay utterly lonely. Our light foot-
steps were the only claim on them.
I had reached the area by being passed like a package
through a working underground that, as Abdel Kadar had
told me, spanned borders halfway around the world. I had
been moved by plane, car, truck, horse, mule and on foot.
My escorts, changing almost every day, had been Algerian
sympathizers in Europe, and Algerian refugees, couriers and
infantrymen in North Africa. I had traveled, blindfolded, in
a borrowed dress as a German tourist, and as a veiled and
berobed Arab woman. I had been quartered in Arab homes
and stables and ammunition dumps in half a dozen Moroc-
can towns, in the tribal tents of Berber herdsmen and finally
in the rock caves of the Ksour foothills three days' walking
from the border between Morocco and Algeria.
One of the caves, supplied with two blankets and a bed of
alfalfa, had been my home for ten days. Other nearby caves
on a cliff comprised the battalion command post, the base
from which the rebels almost every night sortied out to halt
any vehicle by mining the roads or by ambush. The battal-
ion, like the Arab tribesmen, did not miss the roads, for
they had no vehicles of their own. The roadside wrecks I'd
seen were of French army trucks and armored cars. The
rebel unit called itself the Scorpion Battalion (after its home
among sun-warmed rocks) and had just been decorated by
the FLN for blowing up the French rail line from nearby
Colomb Bechar to Oran regularly three times a week.
Among the Scorpions I'd seen one evidence of the bat-
talion's importance in the eyes of the French. The area was
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 223
under daily, sometimes hourly air attack by light bombers
that bore the French tricolor.
On the patrol I was accompanying up the hill called
Black Point, we had no fighting mission. We were only
scouting, and would be back in two or three days, as soon
anyway as we had eaten all the dates and sugar and bread
and tea in the men's packs.
We were only a dozen people, and it seemed easy to keep
up among them at first, as if I could push the hill down be-
hind me with each step up the tumbled, stairlike rocks.
Behind me climbed Captain Ben Chafa, the battalion
commander. He was short, slight, white-skinned. His lithe
person exuded all the mystique of a good infantry com-
mander. He had been trained by the French. He was Al-
gerian-born; his father had been a colonel in the French
army, Ben Chafa told me, earning a third the pay of his
European colleagues for performing the same duties. As a
boy, Ben Chafa was a pupil in the school run by the French
for the children of their officers. Here he had learned
French, and he and I used a pidgin-version to speak with
each other. But because Ben Chafa's father was an Arab, the
boy had been required to keep his head shaven while French
youngsters wore their hair naturally. He had earned the
scar across the top of his head by rebelling against the order.
When he let his hair grow, one of his schoolmasters stripped
off a piece of his scalp.
If this explained today why the young Arab captain was
fighting against Europeans, it had left no acid cast to his
cool gray-eyed gaze. He had the professionalism, the sang
froid of a company commander in our Marines. Making war
had been his family's tradition; war was his own. And in his
neatly-kept uniform an army shirt, bloused green twill
trousers and a pair of brown tennis shoes he didn't need the
224 What's A Woman Doing Here?
black necktie or striped epaulets to mark him as the man
whose orders we were all taking.
It was he who had told me that the French had bombed
and dropped flaming gasoline on Black Point the previous
week, apparently gambling that it sheltered the Scorpions'
headquarters. They were wrong, but straddling Black Point
was something almost as important to the rebels the track
along which mule and camel caravans brought in ammuni-
tion and gunpowder.
Ben Chafa had said it must be kept clear or his people
could not go on making the charges to interdict the rail
line. He finished, "Please come with the patrol so your peo-
ple later can see a photograph of an unexploded bomb. It
will show from the markings on the fins that it is one of the
aerial bombs supplied to France from your country."
I watched the feet of the climber ahead of me and put my
own feet where his dusty sandals had been. Their soles were
cut from U.S. war surplus truck tires, and he was leaving
parts of the words GOODYEAR and FIRESTONE in the gray sand.
He was a junior lieutenant named Lamara, very young and
tall and thin. His pale face wore an expression of surprise
as if he could not imagine how he had become involved in
a warlike effort. He spoke Arabic, French and English, and
was my interpreter. Until he enlisted, he had been a student
in a university in France. He still hoped to teach school
some day in an Algerian village free Algeria, of course.
His hobby was history and he carried a book in his pack.
He had shown me the text of a treaty in it which President
Madison had negotiated with Algeria in 1812. He remained
unabashed when I pointed out that the purpose of the treaty
was to stop piracy off the coast of Tripoli. He said that wasn't
the point; what he wanted me to understand was that the
United States had recognized his land as a nation in its own
right one hundred and fifty years earlier.
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 225
I tried now to let Lieutenant Larnara's easy movements
hypnotize me into moving faster. But he heard my footsteps
falter. He turned and said over his shoulder, "One must
hurry. The moon will be early and clear tonight. Anyone in
the valley, perhaps a French patrol, will be able to see us
here, so we must cross the ridge without delaying."
He extended his hand behind his back to me. I put my
hand in his and at once he began to climb again, accepting
at each step whatever part of my weight my own legs dis-
In this way, we reached the top of the ridge.
The next day we located the unexploded bombs the mule
driver had reported. I photographed one; it was indeed a
NATO weapon, a hundred-pound high explosive aerial
bomb. The officers agreed the bombs were far enough off the
mule track so they did not need to be detonated.
That night, we picked our way down to the hillside again,
slowly for the moon would rise later.
As the days passed, I knew I was learning several new
abilities I'd never be taught by American military forces.
How to live in the desert in August with only a pint of water
and two cups of tea a day. How to limit my urination to
once a day so I would not need any more liquid, and to robe
myself with a thick blanket when I went out into the noon-
day sun so I would not lose water by perspiring. How to
work on only half a dozen dates and a chunk of sugar half
the size of my hand every day. How to walk for five hours
without a break and to sleep well on rock. Laugh at myself
though I should, the pride I felt was important and bigger
than the hurt in my throat from the thirst or the ache in my
back from the rocks.
One morning Lieutenant Lamara told me I was to ac-
company the next trip of the battalion staff forward of head-
226 What's A Woman Doing Here?
quarters. But it would be too far for me to walk; he asked
if I was a skilled horsewoman. I said I was not. A patent lie,
since I was not a horsewoman of any kind, my only previous
experience being some fifteen minutes in the saddle in
Panama in 1942. With that quick perception of incapability
that distinguishes experienced soldiers, the officers under-
stood. They found a mount for me which obviously had never
heard any propaganda about Arab horses being spirited. He
was dappled, handsome and double-gaited: slow walk and
full stop were the gaits. Moreover, a young soldier always
led him when I sat in the saddle. The men had christened
the horse after the political backing and filling of the French
governor-general of Algeria, and the animal answered to the
name La Coste.
The mission of the trip I made on La Coste was not mili-
tary. I photographed five tribes of shepherds some five hun-
dred people in all become part of the FLN. I watched and
took pictures while the turbanned Berbers gave their oath
of fealty, their sheep, their tax money and some of their
sons as enlistees to the Scorpion battalion.
Then our junior officers held a court for civil litigation,
hearing cases involving wills and marriages and contracts.
Sitting inside a goat-hair tent before a flag of rebel Algeria,
Lamara and two of his colleagues decided the issues and the
tribesmen bowed as they accepted their judgments. Proudly,
they later told me they had boycotted the French systems of
justice so successfully in the area that many European jurists
had been driven back to France, their courtrooms closed for
lack of litigants. Now each tribe had its own system for law
and order based on squads of policemen named and trained
by the FLN. What degree of justice would come of the new
system nobody debated.
After the final meal with the tribes a ceremonial one, of
course, with a whole roast sheep on a tray, giving us all a
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 227
chance to eat our fill the men invited their sons into the
tent to join the official party. One tribal elder had taught
his seven-year-old child to stand at attention and salute Cap-
tain Ben Chafa. The officer asked him, "What do you want
to be when you grow up?"
"I want to come with you. But now," the little boy said,
his heavy-lashed eyes immense.
"Leave your mother when you are so little?" asked Ben
Chafa with mock surprise.
"I want to fight for my country."
"Fight the French."
"When will you stop?"
"When there is not one Frenchman alive on the soil of my
"Will you kill your father if he helps the French?"
"With joy," piped the little voice. His father beamed.
And I thought of the little boy's counterpart in Paris,
learning from a geography book that Algeria is part of France.
It had been a good time, that clear August morning in the
command post of the Algerian rebel battalion. The rising
sun blessed the mountains around us, reflecting pink and
benign across the face of the hill. At the lip of a wide ledge,
four of us sat cross-legged on the warm stone floor.
Lieutenant Lamara, his back against the cave wall, stayed
a little to one side. Between Captain Ben Chafa and me,
a newcomer had settled himself, tall and dark with narrow
deep-sunk eyes in a swarthy face. His lips made a straight
slash across his heavy jaw. This was the highest-ranking
Algerian officer I was to be permitted to know. (It was said
in 1957 that thirty-four responsible FLN leaders had been
appointed. Eighteen had been identified by the French, cap-
tured and imprisoned or shot; ten were in exile, among them
228 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Ferhat Abbas who a year later was to become president of
the provisional Algerian government. But the remaining six,
all military commanders, were still in Algeria.)
The man on the cave lip was a colonel who used the
pseudonym Hamitou. He was the rebels' best known designer
of high explosive devices: mines, bombs, grenades. Some
people said the French would rather capture him than any
other Algerian in uniform.
He knew the French language but would not use it, so
Lamara was interpreting from the colonel's guttural Arabic.
Hamitou had agreed to tell a little about his personal story.
It was a grim accounting; as the colonel talked the sunlight
lost its beneficence and the shadows felt cold.
Hamitou spoke of himself as the blackest villain. He made
clear this was not by birth or reflex or training but by de-
liberate choice. In no other way did he believe he could so
well serve what he saw as his reason for being: to destroy
He wanted me to know how he had joined the rebel forces.
During his final year of study in France to become a vet-
erinarian, he had come back to Algeria on his summer va-
cation. He rode out to visit his relatives who lived in a little
desert hamlet. He arrived there within minutes after the
village had been raided. No children ran out to greet him;
no one was left alive. He ducked under the smouldering
roof beams of what had been his uncle's house. After a time,
he pulled free the bayonet by which his eleven-year-old niece's
body was pinned to the earth floor.
"It was a bayonet of three edges. The forces of only one
nation on earth were equipped at that time with such a
bayonetthose of your country's ally, France/' he finished.
As Lamara translated, looking a little pale, I had been
studying Colonel Hamitou's face. Rarely impassive,, it had
become distorted almost past recognition. There is only one
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 229
act to fit what is in his s ace, "l- thought. The act of putting-
to-death. Then I remembered. Homicide was his business.
When the colonel abruptly announced he was done with
being interviewed, I arose and carried my burden of unease
down the hill. I came to the battalion kitchen, a level space
among the rocks where the lamb-and-bean stew for our noon-
day meal w r as bubbling in a huge black pot over a fire of
dried reeds. A white-mustached sergeant and two riflemen
were tending it, the men helping knead bread dough on a
nearby flat rock. I began to photograph them and, over the
top of the finder of my camera, I caught sight of another
person, slight, not military.
He wore a loose turban and torn Arab robes held together
by a big safety pin at his chest. His olive-skinned face peered
down at me from a slit in the rock walls. It occurred to me
that he was in a strange place; because of the formation of
the stones around him, he could not move in or out of it
without tortuous climbing.
The cook followed my eyes. "Prisoner," he said. Then I
saw the man's handcuffs, silvery in the shaded light. I asked
one of the riflemen to summon Lamara.
When he came, I told him I wanted to interview the
prisoner. 1 thought Lamara might demur, but he only said,
"Of course, 7 ' and he offered his arm to the prisoner to help
him clirnb out of the cell of rocks in spite of his handcuffs.
Unbidden, one of the riflemen set down the dough he had
been flattening and picked up a submachine gun leaning
against a rock. He moved swiftly to a post across the only
exit from the kitchen.
The gesture bothered me. It made sp plain the captured
man's helplessness. I thought, Til make my interview as long
as I can. I remembered how welcome any diversion was to a
person in custody.
Then for the first time I looked squarely at the prisoner.
230 What's A Woman Doing Here?
He was not a man after allhe was a boy. Smooth-faced with
long-lashed black eyes. How did anyone this young become
involved in a shooting war?
He returned my gaze gravely, almost serenely.
I began to ask questions, Lamara fluently translated, the
prisoner answered without hesitation. 1 could not sense any
reservations in the way he talked, and he used his manacled
hands to gesture gracefully.
I listened to the boy for perhaps half an hour. I thought,
I don't believe one word of this. Not one word.
The young Algerian before us, with the face and grace of
a Victorian poet, told with the greatest detail how he had
cut the throats of more women and children than he could
Finally he was done and I said to Lieutenant Lamara,
"What will happen to him?"
"The death penalty, I think."
Lamara and I picked our way up the hill back to the
In the cave, Captain Ben Chafa and Colonel Hamitou
were seated on the rock floor, sipping tea from the chipped
white mugs. A soldier quickly brought two more mugs for
the lieutenant and me. The captain, like a courtly host,
asked where I'd been.
"In the kitchen," I paused. Should I mention the prisoner?
Ben Chafa smilingly prompted, "Did you interview our
I said, "Yes" and paused again.
Hamitou had not seemed to notice our conversation. His
long fingers were doing something with a length of wire, a
pair of small pliers and a flashlight battery. Now his deep-
sunk eyes flashed up. "And what do you think of our
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 231
"I just don't understand him," I burst out. "He is simply
talking himself to death/'
Hamitou's contempt had been for the prisoner. Now it was
for the reporter, too. The disdain in his face grew deeper.
Its impact was direct and personal. He said, "I don't suppose
you'd want to cover his execution."
Well, there it is, I thoughtthe whole schism between
worlds. Not just the two sides of this war. Not just the have-
nots against the have, nor just chaos against civilization. But
the whole blazing rejection by the world of violence for the
world of order.
Angrily, I remembered which side I was on. I did not try
to keep the emotion out of my voice as I said, spacing the
words clearly, "Not unless I cover the trial."
The colonel put his cigarette between his lips and picked
up the pliers, squinting at the wire loop through the curl of
In the stillness I could hear my own words. Maybe they
had sounded good enough, but I knew better. Idid not-
wan t to cover an execution at all. A proper military trial
would take time to arrange, though, and with luck I might
be elsewhere before it occurred. // it occurred.
The cook-sergeant was climbing up the bluff toward us,
carrying a great white enamel basin of the thick lamb stew,
the one big meal of the day.
Hamitou, Ben Chafa, Lamara and I ate sitting in a circle
on the rock floor around the basin. Each of them tore off
little bits of the clear lean meat with the edge of his spoon
and pushed it toward my spoon. The colonel did it imperi-
ously, the captain mechanically, the lieutenant with difficulty.
I wondered if they had read the old fairy tale which defined
love as a very old couple eating out of one bowl, each pushing
toward the other the choicest bits of food. It was a French
story, and they had all lived in France . . .
232 What's A Woman Doing Here?
The men were talking in Arabic among themselves with-
out much inflection; shop talk, obviously. Once Ben Chafa
called for a noncom who saluted and stood at attention just
outside our circle. The officer seemed to be making a sug-
gestion. The soldier demurred stiffly. The captain said the
same thing again, inflecting it as an order. The soldier
saluted, about-faced and went down the hill.
Lamara's long face was smiling. "He says he doesn't want
to be defense attorney. But he will/'
The conversation grew more animated and I caught one
French word. Tribunal. I heard it a second time. I struggled
against my own conclusion. Finally Lamara said, "You do
understand what they have arranged to do this afternoon,
I heard myself answer, "Yes."
"Aren't you frightened?"
Good question, young man, good question. The operative
question. But out loud I said, "Is the trial going to be held
in this big cave?"
Lamara nodded. Good, I thought. I don't have to think
about it yet. I have a technical problem in photography first.
The light is bad. Get your lightmeter and take readings up
and down in both directions and don't forget what you
compute and be sure the judges know you will need to move
around during the trial so they don't stop you after it's started
and remember to load fresh film in both cameras and . . .
The life of a man is never just a technical problem in
I could see the words in type.
This one is. This one is a self-confessed mass murderer.
YouVe heard his confession with your own ears. It's all very
well for a reporter to doubt but nobody is going to talk
themselves into a death sentence just to make a propaganda
story. Besides, that isn't what you doubt at all.
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 233
You doubt the fact of killing. You doubt that the men who
have cared for you here and confided In you here and pushed
over to you the best of their food are actually going in cold
blood to put to death a human being you know, a living
human with whom you have identified yourself.
Maybe, but anyhow I don't want to photograph what is
I recalculated the lightmeter readings on the circular slide
rule. There was no use arguing with the numbers. Pictures
were possible in this light. They might even be good.
I fitted together the glittering camera parts and the little
film cartridges and the big-barreled lenses. One fat lense had
been with me for a long time and I was gratified when it
locked smoothly into place as if my hands had been steady.
I squatted on my heels leaning against the rock wall on
one side of the courtroom. The cave had become that; the
officers were taking their places in a semicircle. Lamara was
at my elbow. I said, trying to make it sound crisp, "I have
two cameras. At the moment of execution I can use only
one. I will set the other for you. Will you stand next to me
and operate the shutter?"
The young lieutenant looked deeply troubled. "I can't
give you my word on it," he shook his head. He gazed gravely
down at me. "You see I I get nervous at executions."
There was a long pause. I knew Lamara had said something
ludicrous and I ought to smile if only inwardly. But his raw
honesty made me tell the truth to myself instead. Now I knew
what my real doubt was.
Fine phrases aside how many more days might the boy
have lived if I had not shown sympathy for him? Was not
the trial and execution being held now because I was there
to see it?
The tribunal opened in the hottest hour of the day. A
234 What's A Woman Doing Here?
half-moon of five judges were sitting cross-legged. At each
end stood an army noncom; the captain had designated one
as prosecutor, the other as defense counsel. Between them,
the prisoner faced his judges, standing gracefully.
A few yards down the hill behind him were four rebel
infantrymen acting as guards. Affixed to their rifle muzzles
were three-edged bayonets captured from their enemies.
When the testimony began, the prisoner seemed more at
ease than anyone else. In the shaded light from the cave
walls, the planes of his face were curved like a child's and
there was barely sweat on them. His gestures as he talked
were wide and easy, his dirty white robe moving as he swayed.
The smooth silvery manacles at his wrists were not tight and
they made a tinkling sound when he gestured with his hands.
Sometimes you could see the red tattooing on his palms that
identified him as having pledged loyalty to the French. When
he moved his face to one side of the court or the other, he
shifted his weight on his bare brown feet like a dancer.
His name was Banamar, he said, and he had been born in
the province of the mountains here. Almost as soon as he
could walk, he had herded his family's sheep and goats.
When he was old enough to lift a load of rocks of earth, he
had become a road laborer. He was paid enough each day
to buy six loaves of bread, he remembered.
One day, Banamar related, a man in the uniform of the
French army asked him if he would like to come away from
the road and into the mountains with three of his friends
who, too, worked on the road. The soldier promised them
they would always have enough to eat.
The Algerians went with him. Life in the mountains was
not hard at first and they were told that if they pleased their
French noncom bosses, they would have a chance to earn a
great deal of money four thousand francs. But first their
allegiance must be proven. They were to go back into the
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 235
villages and talk with the people, saying they were looking
for lost camels. They were to learn where the rebel army was
operating, where the migrant tribes grazed their herds and
which villages and tribes were helping the rebel saboteurs.
This work was easy, and Banarnar said he always found
out quickly whatever the French wanted to know. Then
they would seat him in an armored truck at the head of the
assault against the pro-rebel communities he had identified.
The French would surround the village or the shepherds*
tents, set fire to the roofs of their dwellings and shoot the
people as they fled, Banamar explained, making a circle with
his manacled hands.
Hamitou had grown bored. He was familiar with these
tactics and he moved his shoulders impatiently as if their
recital were unnecessary now. "Yes, yes, go on/' he ordered.
Soon, the prisoner related, he had a chance to earn the
four thousand francs. When the firing on one village was
done, a noncom told him that in two of the huts there were
still some old men and women and children left alive.
"Banamar, go in and kill them with your knife," the
Banamar told the court he did not do anything at first;
he only stood very still.
The French soldier leveled his submachine gun at him.
So Banamar did as he had been told. It was not very differ-
ent from killing sheep, he explained. He did it the same
way. First the old man whose hands he tied as you tie the
front legs of a sheep. Then two women. Only one of them
screamed. And finally a baby.
When he came back to the armored truck, he learned that
his three friends had done as he had done. The French non-
com said they had each earned their money. They did not
get all of it. Most, they were told, was sent to their parents
236 What's A Woman Doing Here?
and some was used to pay for the food they had been eating
in the mountains.
The next killings were easier. Banamar said he did not
remember them very clearly. The noncom had warned him
each time, "If you do not do as we tell you, we will deliver
you to your own people/'
Once Banamar said he did not kill a young girl whom he
found. He brought her to the sergeant. The noncom was
pleased. But after she had been five days a prisoner, Banamar
said he had to kill her after all.
Almost two years went by and it was always the same-
find the rebels, report back to the soldiers, lead in the ar-
mored truck, kill the survivors of the attack.
A week before his trial, Banamar was set down by a U.S.-
built helicopter on the edge of a tribal village about fifty
miles from the cave of the courtroom. Perhaps the pilot was
careless of his security; somehow the people of the tribe
saw the dust of his landing. Their police, acting with the
authority of the FLN, quickly took Banamar into custody.
They arrested him even before they saw his tattooing be-
cause he did not have the identity papers needed for a person
who belonged in their sector.
Banamar had not lied about himself to them. He told
them he had been a spy and butcher for the French because
he was sure he would be killed immediately otherwise. The
police had walked him at gunpoint to the Scorpion Battalion
headquarters at once.
He had never changed his story. It had been no different
Finally the judges had heard it all. Each of them ques-
tioned him, and the soldier who was acting in Banamar's
defense made a plea based on his youth. This took almost
an hour and the junior officers sitting at the edge of the
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 237
half-moon were looking at their watches before it was over.
Only the president of the court, Colonel Hamitou, showed
emotion. And only once. Then, with deep contempt, he
leaned over his knees to the prisoner. His sheer posture was
an act of assault. "If I were told to kill my own brothers, as
you were, I would be able to find something else to do except
what I was told." He added without any inflection, "Do you
ask the mercy of the court?"
Banamar had not flinched. His brown face reflected the
light from the cave walls and seemed translucent in it. "I
ask only the mercy of Allah. He knows I could not stop
myself from killing."
The four guards led the prisoner down the rock-strewn
"The court is open for deliberation," Hamitou intoned,
almost wearily. He and Ben Chafa spoke first among them-
selves, then turned to the men at their sides. In less than
two minutes, Hamitou called for a vote. Only one vote,
"Signify for the death sentence," he said.
All five hands, his own in the center, were raised.
A few hundred yards down the valley there was a sloping
pebbled field dotted with clumps of alfalfa. In a quarter of
an hour, a company of infantry was assembled, formed into
three sides of a square, the open end facing the lowering
sun. Volunteers for the firing squad came from among those
men whose wives and children Banamar could possibly have
Hamitou designated a low jutting stone as the place where
the prisoner was to stand. The squad was called forward and
twice rehearsed with their rifles as if they had not done this
before. Hamitou finished, "You will fire on the count of
The prisoner was led forward to the spot where he would
238 What's A Woman Doing Here?
die. He faced the East and the firing squad, erect and grave.
Captain Ben Chafa was at my elbow. "Please be sure your
pictures show that the body was removed without being
mutilated." I nodded weakly.
Two days later, in front of a white-balconied Madrid
hotel, I was being bade farewell from the FLN by two
impeccably groomed young men in business suits who looked
as if they might have been guides from a tourist agency.
They told me I was not a kidnapee any longer; I could now
phone America if I wished to report my safe return. They
handed me the paper-and-string-wrapped package containing
the hundred dozen photographs I'd made of their forces,
which they had been guarding along with me. Their final
words were the same benediction I'd received from Abdel
Kadar, bon courage.
As the men melted into the strolling crowd, I felt again
the sense of unreality I had known during my first days of
security after my time in Hungary. The men had been the
couriers on the final lap of my journey and I, in the veil
and robe of an Arab woman, had met them first in their
djalabbas on the far side of the Mediterranean. They would
now go back there to fight on, and I would again sleep in a
bed, shower under hot water, eat all the food my stomach
would hold and wonder why, in a world of order and plenty,
it was so hard to tell of violence and want. Strangest of all
in that moment, was the fact that to try to do this was my
To cross the chasm between them, to move from Algeria
to America in 1957, took me only a few days. But it was
months before my mind and heart had made the same cross-
ing. Finally four years had passed and a dozen other American
journalists had made the same kind of visit to the Algerian
Operation Squirrel: Algeria 239
rebels as I had. Joseph Kraft of The Saturday Evening Post
had written a prize winning book about it. Frank Reams of
CBS News had produced an award winning documentary
film. All of us told the same story.
15. The Marines Didn*t Shoot: Lebanon
THOUGH ANY CORRESPONDENT will tell you the significant
bits of history he's seen in his life are ultimately dramatic-
war, blood, terror most of the time the job is a great deal
like other jobs with highs and lows and even long stretches
that are neither.
Almost half of the last five years, I've spent on assignments
as different from those in Hungary or Algeria as day is from
night. I think warmly of them as privileged adventure--
definitely highs. They are professional reporting jobs, too,
important ones, but usually empty of dread, light-hearted
and at times happily near-zany.
I mean the routine coverage of the peacetime movements
and maneuvers of American forces all over the world, in my
case most often the U.S. Navy and Marines. That had been
the kind of journalistic chore I'd begun in 1955 at Camp
Pendleton in California.
In November of 1957, I left New York on my way to do
the same kind of reporting from the Mediterranean, writing
about and photographing the operations of the U.S. Sixth
Fleet for several magazines. Flying the Atlantic enroute, I
didn't guess that I'd still be busily covering the Fleet a year
later. But I was, and when I came to write my story, I in-
cluded a profile of its commander, the near-legendary Admi-
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 241
ral Charles Randall "Cat" Brown. Every time I saw him,
freckled, his eyes twinkling, he looked like a boy in the
process of winning the town's marble tournament. But what
he was really winning was the state of peace in the Medi-
terranean. Through crisis after crisis, he wielded the weapons
of ultimate violence so as to avoid their ultimate use.
One recollection 1 have of the Admiral concerns a small
shambles of naval custom. It was in late June of 1958, and
I was being landed on the deck of another aircraft carrier,
the U.S.S. Essex,, on my way this time to cover the Marine
battalion landing team attached to the Fleet. I'd been flown
out to sea from Athens sitting in the co-pilot's place on the
shuttle plane. The compartment which ordinarily would
have accommodated passengers was chock-a-block with cargo
of such a high priority that nobody would tell me what it
Admiral Brown, surrounded by his staff in full panoply,
happened to be standing on the carrier flight deck as we set
down. I was elated to have photographed a pilot's eye view
of the feat of landing a big airplane in the length of a foot-
ball field. So I gaily waved waved, like a tourist on a gang-
plank! -at the redoubtable Commander of the whole Sixth
Fleet. I almost clapped my hand back over my mouth in
Then I saw what the Admiral was doing. He was waving
Ten days later on the white beaches of the little island
of Crete, the Marines offered me their own brand of re-
It began when one of the rifle squads lost a bet to me.
I'd prophesied that the training exercise they were under-
going was a rehearsal for an assault-landing in Lebanon,
where I'd just spent a few weeks covering noisy skirmishing
242 What's A Woman Doing Here?
between the Red-armed rebels and the pro- West gendarmes.
If I'd been wrong, I'd have owed each member o the squad
a case of beer. When it developed, however, that their bat-
talion staff on the command ship steaming offshore was in
fact drafting up orders for an operation into Lebanon, the
men conceded the bet.
The squad leader was Sergeant Kenneth Mays, a veteran
of the Korean fighting who on a dare had once climbed
Mount Fujiyama in Japan faster than anybody else. Now he
said he'd see to it that his squad posed for my pictures for a
whole morning, doing whatever I thought would give us the
I agreed I'd won the bet, but I objected that I couldn't
collect; the officers would never approve of a woman giving
orders to a rifle squad.
Sergeant Mays turned out to be a positive thinker. "You
can do it. Women correspondents can get away with any-
The operations officer of the battalion was a chunky, cigar-
smoking New Yorker with a blond crew cut, Major Sam
Cox. He kept his traditional eagle eye on his 1900 people
through deep-green sunglasses. I remembered him as the
author of the most succinct summation I'd ever heard of the
conditions under which a female reporter this onemight
be permitted to cover troops in the field. It had been during
an earlier maneuver, and he'd gazed steadily at me in my
oversize dungaree jacket, full-cut dungaree slacks, high laced
boots and steel helmet framing my horn-rimmed glasses.
"Okay, okay, you can stay with us," he'd finally conceded.
And then he'd admonished me, "Just get this: you can stay
as long as you do not remind 'em what they're missing."
Now, sitting behind a worn desk in his compartment on
the command ship, Major Cox listened uneasily while I told
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 243
him I requested attachment to a squad for my work as a
"Look here, I can't see any official objection, Dickey/' he
began. "But any squad is only thirteen people, and it's not
easy for them to fit in another person. I know one of them
from whom you're bound to get a real gripe. And I tell you
right now, I'm on his side."
"Who's that?" I wanted to know.
"The squad leader," said the major in a that-settles-that
I asked in a small voice if he meant it would be agreeable
to him if I could by chance find a squad leader who would
make no objection.
"That's exactly what I mean," thundered the major.
So the next morning, by the dawn's early light and with
official blessing, I became what I suspect was the first woman
in the history of the Marine Corps to command a squad
of riflemen overseas.
The outcome was well, curious.
One photograph I wanted to make was a new version of
the traditional charging-ashore picture. The curving beach
near Suda Bay on Crete was perfect for it. But I'd have only
a squad of Marines taking my orders. No Navy cox'n or
landing craft had been included in the deal. In order to
conceal the absence of an LCVP or LVT, I needed a locale
where we could produce a high photogenic splash on de-
mand. There was a fast running salt-water brook about two
broad-jumps wide running parallel with the shoreline a
dozen yards inland; it would do nicely.
Before I ordered Mays to lead his people into the stream,
I forded it myself, not once but twice. The two spots where
I waded across were fifty yards from each other. At the
southern fording, the water came over my ankles. To the
north, it came up to my thighs. I decided it would make
244 What's A Woman Doing Heref
a better splash, of course, if we used the thigh-deep spot, and
I set up myself and camera on the inshore bank.
"Sergeant, put your people on the other side of the stream
in a skirmish line facing me," I said to Mays.
"Yes, Ma'am/' he said as if we'd been doing things like this
for years, and began deploying the squad in a straight line.
Just then a Marine tank lumbered up and parked, not
behind either of the two spots I'd forded but right in the
middle between them. It would make the perfect back-
ground, its bulk completely concealing the absence of a
I said to Mays crisply, "Sergeant, hold the squad in that
deployment and move it twenty-five yards north. And have
them fix bayonets/'
The sergeant, poker-faced, said "Yes, Ma'am/ 5 He moved
By this time, I was really excited about the way the picture
was shaping up in my camera finder. I also was drunk with
So when I'd positioned myself on my knees right opposite
the center of their line, with only the stream width and
twenty yards of sand slope between us, I forgot everything
I'd ever known about the chain of command. I didn't tell
Mays to order his squad to charge.
With my own arm I made the classic Forward! gesture. I
shouted, "All right, you people, move! Pretend I am the
objective-/ am the objective!"
If the sensation of control over the movements of other
people was what I wanted, I got it. The results were spec-
The squad jumped off in an inexorable driving rush, the
dozen in a line at Sergeant Mays' heels running over the far
bank of the stream and creating a great lacy splash with their
pounding boots as they entered the water. Then something
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 245
went wrong. A minute later it was absolutely quiet. All I
could see was helmets in a row on the surface o the stream.
This was a place where I hadn't checked the depth of the
And the Marines had charged in hard and gone right to
the bottom, which must have been about eight feet down.
I couldn't remember ever having read anything in the
book about what was supposed to happen now and I just
stared in open-mouthed horror at the smooth flowing water.
It turned out I hadn't read the book very carefully. They
were Marines and they had been ordered to charge and they
couldn't see that finding themselves on a river bottom was
any excuse to stop charging. The whole skirmish line, drip-
ping but intact, broke water about ten steps in front of me,
still coming fast.
And I was the one who had said, "Fix bayonets!" "I am
the objective!" The last words were still ringing in the air.
When I'd said them, we were friends. What were we now?
I was on my knees and couldn't regain my feet before they
overran me. I froze, the camera still to my eyeI found out
later I even kept on shooting pictures.
Sergeant Mays, running right at me, sliced the air with his
bayonet precisely at my ear and jumped cleanly over me. The
fire team leader behind him and his men in order of rate
imitated the sergeant exactly. Then there wasn't any more
motion on the beach at all.
Well, there was a little. The entire dripping squad was
gasping, spluttering and bending over from some emotion. I
shortly figured out what it was. Maniacal mirth.
Only Sergeant Mays* self-control hadn't slipped.
His features a mask of utter impassivity, he stood at my
elbow, extending a dripping hand. He said flatly the only
words I can imagine unerringly appropriate.
"I'm so glad you brought the dry cigarettes."
246 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I gave him all I had and for the rest of the morning dis-
cussed in the greatest detail with him every move of every
man for every picture before we shot it.
The last pay-off of the story came in the battalion cruise
book, a souvenir published for the families of the men tell-
ing the high lights of their tour of duty in the Mediter-
ranean. The Marine noncoms who edited the book gave my
visit 'to the unit a whole page. On it they used only the
photographs I'd made of the squad charging in, disappear-
ing, and then emerging from the stream. The dead-pan cap-
tions just stated the facts and doggone if they didn't spell
my name right.
Less than a week later, my reputation as a prophet sur-
vived its acid test. In the wake of the assassination of the king
in neighboring Iraq, the Marines did land across the beaches
of Lebanon. My clairvoyance hadn't extended to the day
and hour, however, and neither I nor any other correspond-
ent was in the right place at the right time to ride in with
the first two battalions. I flew over from Athens and covered
the third and last charge ashore.
The real thing here of course didn't look much different
from the rehearsal except for the hazard offered by Arab
families sun-bathing on the sand. I've always been fond of
the rumor that the final sentence of the operations orders
read, "You will make every effort in this assault not to dis-
turb the swimmers on the beach," a juxtaposition of ideas
that surely had not occurred in Marine history.
The next night I spent flat on my stomach in a hole in
the ground near the top of a hill we called Irene. It over-
looked the main runway of the Beirut International Airport.
This was the prize piece of real estate in the Middle East
at the moment, since the Russians could not send "volun-
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 247
teers" to Lebanon by air unopposed as long as the field was
defended by United States Marines.
Crisscrosses of blue and amber runway lights stabbed up
impertinently from the field through the tense quiet of the
Marines' outer line, a row of holes thirty steps apart extend-
ing in a giant arc which embraced the Lebanese capital city,
airport and all.
There were four of us in the hole on the line, resting flat
with our boots pointed inward. Each of us was to watch in a
different direction, since we knew (and hoped not too many
other people did) that the line had little depth and there
wasn't any direction safe from infiltration.
The hole belonged to the leader of the second platoon of
India Company, 3rd Battalion 6th Marines, Lieutenant Tom
Akers. He was a twenty-three-year-old San Franciscan, so
lanky he was outweighed by almost every man of his com-
mand though he could outreach most of them. He had just
repeated in a stage whisper the order of the day from Briga-
dier General Sidney S. Wade, the Commander of Marines
in Lebanon, All of us considered it the most extraordinary
order to a moving assault force we could imagine, and
historically I later learned we were right to be astounded. It
was: You will not shoot unless you are being shot at and
then only at a clear target.
Beside Akers in the hole rose the black bulk of his radio-
man, wide-shouldered Dick Stettner, eighteen, from New
Jersey. Akers was whispering to him, "Where did I tell you
the ollies were coming from tonight?'*
"Ollies" was the Marine term for the Communist-armed
Lebanese rebels. When they came to harass the Marine lines,
they seemed to crawl out of the olive groves and later to
disappear without a trace among the terraces.
The silhouette of Stettner's arm flashed down the hill
toward a gully. "They're coming from three miles that way. 1 '
248 What's A Woman Doing Heref
1 waited for him to add sir and realized with a little sense
of shock that this was a forward area; he was under orders
not to say it lest an enemy eavesdropper find out which
of us was the leader.
Akers went on breathily, "What else did I say about those
"You said some of those ollies were in a mood to kill us."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Keep alert on watch/*
Akers almost forgot to whisper as he relaxed. "Okay, you
can start now."
Off to my right lay the dark shape of another Marine. He
looked in utter repose and, incongruously, he was turned
inward. But I knew the lieutenant wouldn't tell him to
change; if an ollie came close to us, he would sense it before
anyone else in the hole. He was a career Marine scout, Ser-
geant B. H. Wilson from the countryside of Kentucky. Small
and taciturn, he was a kind of reincarnation of the cavalry
scouts of the Civil War who outdid the Indians in swift and
Now the dark had fallen utterly still.
Then four things happened in the same fraction of a sec-
Something moved beside us and I sensed that it was hu-
man, male, coining in. Stettner said, "Halt!" his voice an
octave higher than I'd ever heard it. Lieutenant Akers
wheeled onto his feet in one movement. Sergeant Wilson,
soundlessly, simply was erect, his rifle barrel in line with the
The shadow froze dead-still. Duck-bill cap, bulge of can-
teen at the waist, rifle slung over the shoulder all these
spelled accustomed silhouette. Akers expelled his breath and
said, "Oh, it's you."
It was a Marine runner from battalion with new word
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 249
about the ollies. He whispered it into Akers' ear, Akers
passed it into mine, I gave it to Wilson. "Intelligence of-
ficer says the ollies have been seen less than two miles away/'
We went back to waiting and watching after the runner
melted into the night. All the clocks in the world had
stopped now; time could not be passing.
At that instant a muffled whroom! came from just behind
the hill crest. It seemed that the front line was back in the
war business after all. I didn't need to be told what we'd just
heard. Fd learned a dozen times over to recognize that par-
ticular detonation the previous day. It was a homemade
bomb of soft-drink bottles stuffed with railroad caps which
burst with a shower of razor-edged flying glass. I'd heard a
Marine demolitions man rate its deadliness as less than that
of one of our grenadesbut not much less. Obviously, this
bomb had just been set between two holes in the line by
some infiltrating rebel.
Lieutenant Akers, poised to leap the parapet of our hole,
said as if it were one word, "Stettner-stay-here-till-I-send-for-
you," and was gone. Wilson flowed over to Stettner's side
and I moved to Wilson's. We half-stood, half-leaned, not
breathing at all because we could hear better that way.
Then came two clear, authoritative rifle shots. M-Fs. Ours.
We could place them by sound. They had been fired just
beyond the first hole on the other side of the hill crest.
The word came back for Stettner *' Bring- the-radio-and-
the-rifle." Wilson and I followed him, the three of us run-
ning bent and low across the rocks and bushes at the top of
the hill. Alone, I'd break an ankle doing it. Following Wil-
son, my feet were firm and light and sure.
The far side of the hill seemed in pitch blackness, but he
found the nearest hole by a rustle of movement. It was a
better hole, militarily speaking, than our own, with a para-
pet of big boulders. A canvas shelter-half had been lashed
250 What's A Woman Doing Here?
flat a few yards over to one side, covering a second hole. Wil-
son and I threw ourselves flat between the boulders and the
Fifty yards downhill, a hand grenade exploded, making an
instantaneous spider web of pink star points. The pattern
meant it was one of ours, fragmentation anti-personnel.
In the shocking quiet afterward came surely the most un-
expected sound of all. A shout, full-throated, by one Marine
who obviously didn't care who knew exactly where he was.
"D0n' shoot! I said, don't shoot!"
Over to one side about forty steps from us another home-
made bomb exploded with a flash twenty feet across, a flat
sound and a crash of glass.
Incredibly, the Marine's voice moved across the hillside
toward it, repeating distinctly, "Don't shoot. Goddamn it, I
told you peopleno^ to shoot. Wait. Do you hear me?
Wilson, still prone with his finger on his rifle trigger, laid
his cheek almost on the stock. He read my mind. He said,
very low and almost reasonably, "We can't shoot. No clear
target." Then he added in a whisper, "They're not trying
to kill anybody really. Just like to sucker us into shooting.
Be good for their propaganda."
After twenty long unmoving minutes, Wilson stood up and
started back toward our hole. I followed again. Downcast by
anticlimax, we made the trip deliberately, lifting our knees
high in case we were stepping over warning-flare tripwire.
Then, back on our side of the hilltop, we slid into the places
Lieutenant Akers was there, too, and he leaned over to
whisper into my ear. "You never came any closer to getting
it than just now."
"Now?" I was puzzled. "But nothing came even close to
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 251
"I don't mean on the other side of the hill. I mean right
here. I didn't know you and Wilson were still out in front
of me and when you came over the top, I thought you were
the ollies. I had this thing" he tapped Stettner's rifle butt
"right on you and I wasn't going to holler halt, either."
I put my hand around his ear and whispered, "What
"You and Wilson came over standing up. Only Marines do
that. Ollies and other people keep low like it says in the
book/' He paused. "Say, when did you happen to learn to
stand up on a skyline like that?"
I said nothing although I choked back a laugh. The battle
of Iwo Jima had been fought thirteen years before, and
Akers was now twenty-three. So the correct reply was When
you were in the third grade> Lieutenant. 1 couldn't be that
waspish to a platoon leader of the United States Marines.
Not while he was working, anyhow.
Before the Marines sailed away from Beirut in October, I
knew I had never covered a happier story. Not one Lebanese
had lost his life because an American assault force was on
the soil of his country. No Marine had died in fire fight or
even brawl or automobile accident. I did feel tradition had
been dealt a heavy blow when the retiring Lebanese Presi-
dent Chamoun said: "Your Marines? They behave like
I flew all the way to Sixth Fleet shore headquarters on the
coast of France to ask Admiral Brown, recognized as one of
the leading authorities on Middle East history, if a peaceful
outcome to an armed landing had ever happened before in
the Mediterranean. He said flatly that it had not in all the
five thousand years of collision between the great powers.
252 What's A Woman Doing Here?
One important reason the United States had been able to
accomplish the uprecedented was General Wade's order to
his people while they were still being harassed: You will not
shoot until you are being shot at and then only at a dear
I don't remember it in quite those cool words, though.
To me, it was the sergeant on the hillside overlooking the
airport braving the fire of his own outfit as well as the
enemy's to stride erect through the dark shouting over and
over, "Don't shoot!" between detonations.
Nor was that the only time I'd heard the order quoted.
As prayer and threat and curse, night after night, I'd listened
while it was said by men whose fingers rested on their trig-
gers. Here was a command that negated the major military
advantage they had, the initiative, and that contradicted
their every fighting instinct. But it had been obeyed-by un-
seasoned second lieutenants, by noncoms hardened in the
kill-or-be-killed schools of Iwo and Chosin, by the last nerv-
ous young Pfc. It had been obeyed by men in the face of
every excuse to break it, including deliberate provocation.
Finally the Lebanese themselves offered the last proof
that the United States had performed the historic leger-
demain of using an assault force to win a victory in the minds
of men. The most influential newspapers in the Middle
East summed up their achievement:
The Marine exploit, said the Beirut L'Orient, demon-
strated "how a western landing can be decided and executed
in record time, in spite of threats from the Communist
camp . . . how western troops can penetrate a country as
friends and come out without losing that standing . . . how
they can help a small allied country without firing a shot."
Le Soir, also of Beirut, agreed. "One cannot say that the
Soviet Army could have come into Lebanon and left Leba-
The Marines Didn't Shoot: Lebanon 253
non under the same conditions. To enter Hungary and
stay in Hungary, the Soviet tanks passed over the bodies of
unarmed Hungarian demonstrators.'*
I had a word to add to that. Amen.
16. Assignment in Cuba
HOME TO ME is a small apartment in a row of old build-
ings that face across Manhattan's First Avenue in the direc-
tion of the East River. My view of the water, though, is
blocked by Bellevue Hospital, a symbol which some people
call depressing but which I find is a reminder of compassion
and challenge, too.
After I came back from Lebanon and sat down in the
green chair behind the broad wooden table that faces the
noisy typewriter, I forgot for the first time in my life to ask
if I was a reporter. I was too busy telling what I had to re-
Not till thousands of words had ground through the type-
writer did I begin to understand the pattern of the history
I'd been covering, though. I wanted to go on thinking of
the typed sheets of paper falling one after another out of
the machine as just the output of a story teller, simply the
product by which I made my living.
They were stories, yes. Telling them fed me, yes. But-
their substance was not innocent.
I had become an interpreter of violence. I'd covered three
revolutions in three years Hungary, Algeria, Lebanon. One
editor summed it up far too neatly when he remarked, "You
Assignment in Cuba 255
don't mind, do you, if we call you our special correspondent
to the bayonet borders of the world?* '
I did, but not half so much as I minded the larger truths
that the revolutions had failed. Hungary had fallen to the
tanks. Brother still fought brother in Algeria. Rioting con-
tinued in Lebanon. But men continued to hope and fight
for a better world.
Three weeks later, I was sitting in a Miami hotel room
staring at a telephone. As soon as it rang, I would be on my
way to cover my final revolution (to date, that is) probably
the most significant revolution of them all.
The people of Cuba had started to hope, too, and I'd
been sent by THE READER'S DIGEST to find out what was hap-
pening to them.
The phone did ring, finally. I heard a man's deep voice
saying "Cohen here," the code which the Cuban exiles back
in New York had told me would identify the leaders of the
anti-Batista movement in Miami.
I expected to be flown at once to Havana but instead I
spent five days in a near-bare, cheerless tile-floored office in
the Congress Building, only a few rooms away from the
one where a long time ago I'd earned fifteen dollars a week
as an air show city editor. The office was the clandestine
headquarters of the Cuban underground in Miami support-
ing Fidel Castro. Hour after hour I interviewed Cubans
fleeing from Batista. From their words and voices, many still
shrill with fear, I tried to piece together a picture of the
reign of terror.
The looting of Cuba on a lavish scale could not be hidden,
and Batista first tried to anchor his critics to his cause as he
had anchored the army with a chain of gold. But not all the
critics were corruptible. And stolen pesos could not dry up
the rising hatred felt toward him by the people he was rob-
bing. There simply were too many of them. So at last he de-
256 What's A Woman Doing Here?
cided to try to silence them by the tried-and-true method of
Around his empire of corruption, Batista built a secret-
police organization. The letters SIM and the sleek olive-
drab radio cars with submachine gun barrels poking through
their windows appeared in the streets. Every police station
in the large cities was said to have its own torture chamber.
A fifty-year-old woman schoolteacher who during an inter-
rogation had been violated with a soldering iron in Havana's
XII district, February 24, 1958, described the building. She
said the chief's office had walls of tile and drains in the floor
so it could be cleaned with a hose each day.
Another told me he knew of a community destroyed by
the Cuban Air Force with air-dropped flaming gasoline. He
asked me almost diffidently if there was any other country
that could have supplied the Bastistiano planes with the
napalm-the gasoline jelly bombs-but the United States.
I said I did not know, but I did not add that the answer
probably was no. (Later I was to see the wreckage of the
burned-out town of Mayeri in Oriente, and to photograph
pieces of the distinctive silvery metal casings developed by
U.S. forces during World War II for air-dropping napalm.)
In Miami, I reminded my Cuban friends that the United
States had embargoed all arm shipments to Batista, includ-
ing those for hemisphere defense, in March of 1958 (it was
now mid-November of the same year). They derided the
effect of the embargo, saying that Batista's forces had been
fully equipped long before with the very weapons now being
turned on Cuban civilians.
For two years Fidel Castro had been a magnet for venture-
some American newsmen, an off-beat folk hero in the tales
of foreign correspondents. First Herbert Matthews of The
New York Times and then Andrew St. George, later of Life,
Assignment in Cuba 257
had trekked deep into the Sierra Maestre mountains of
Oriente Province to bring back reports that Castro's forces
were taking on planes and armored cars with hunting rifles
and shotguns and winning. In the end, some twenty reporters
had been assigned to go through Batista's lines to Castro.
Exactly half of them made it; the rest, identified enroute by
Batista's secret police, had been loaded at gunpoint onto the
first Miami-bound airplane.
Dr. Carlos Busch, who headed Castro's underground in
Miami, told me bluntly that I'd get through if I let him
ship my cameras and field gear into the Sierra Maestre area
clandestinely. He said I was to travel as a tourist and that to
carry the leather camera case containing my Leicas, boots and
Kabar would expose the courier who must accompany me to
arrest and torture.
I demurred, saying I must go with my cameras and offered
to be moved blindfolded, as I'd been in Algeria, over the
secret route to Castro. He replied that I'd thereby defer
delivery to the Cuban revolution of ammunition weighing
whatever I did. The most important rule for negotiating
with a jittery underground movement is don't argue, so I
shortly left my gear in the custody of Castro's representative
in Miami. As readers more astute than the writer will have
guessed, I never saw it again. Eventually my fury over the
loss of my cameras simmered down (other reporters too were
victimized by this kind of Castro trick, one of them losing
a motion-picture sound camera into which he had just sunk
his life savings), but to have let the trench knife given me
on Iwo Jima pass into somebody else's hands for this I can't
However, one twist to my last interview with Dr. Busch
turned out to be pure comedy. His words of parting were,
"We'll get you through so long as you have made absolutely
certain no one knows that you are in Miami now. Batista's
258 What's A Woman Doing Here?
spies are everywhere. A phone call to one of them and the
SIM will be waiting for you at the airport in Havana."
I assured him solemnly that no acquaintance of mine but
my editor knew where I was, stepped out onto the sidewalk
before the Congress Building and almost ran into the Marine
colonel who had helped train me in California a few years
"Dickey Chapelle!" he shouted. "Whatewr are you doing
down here? Don't tell me; let me guess of course you're on
your way to Castro!"
The colonel had a colonel's voice and I was sure it hadn't
stopped echoing this side of the Cuban coast. My loyalty to
the Marine Corps underwent a quick heavy strain. The
officer read correctly the dismay on my face, quickly shook
hands and we parted.
I was shortly in the air on a commercial plane to Havana
in the company of a courier from Dr. Busch's office, a plump
dark girl about twenty-five with tremendous heavy-lashed
eyes. I admired her composure on the trip, for the risks she
was taking were real ones. As the plane banked to land in
Havana, she crossed herself and her lips moved. I discovered
I was praying right along with her.
The inspection by the police at the airport was cursory
for both of us. I said I was an employee of a New York firm
of portrait photographers on a two-week vacation and no-
body challenged it. I'd just had my scarred passport replaced
by one innocent of stamps, not for this trip but because the
old one had no blank pages. And a fresh passport was typical
of a casual vacationer.
None of these good omens, though, were going to be too
helpful on the next lap of the trip. The Batistiano lines
around the airport in the capital city of Oriente, Santiago
de Cuba, at the other end of the island, had been tight for
a year. Now word came that the city was virtually besieged
Assignment in Cuba 259
by Castro's forces. I would need a really good story to tell
before Yd be passed through the city proper and out Into
The story on which I stumbled came straight from the
Marine colonel's unwelcome shout. He'd thereby reminded
me that there were Marines on duty at the U.S. naval base
near Guantanamo City, only forty miles from Santiago.
So before I took off from Havana by Cubana Airlines with
my girl courier, I dressed in spike heels, dangle-eairings and
a pale blue fluffy shirtwaist. I tucked into a sequin-trimmed
wallet a picture I'd made of a baby-faced Marine with a
scarred chin whose name unfortunately I could not remem-
The moment came when none of these preparations
seemed overdone. My courier was being passed without
drama by a brisk Cuban police officer at the Santiago air-
port barrier. I had drawn a large razor-eyed officer, and my
luggage still lay unpacked. Although he'd made sure there
was not a single item in my suitcase that any American
tourist would not ordinarily carry, he clearly was not satis-
fied. In English he snapped at me, "You say you are a
I nodded dumbly.
"How can you be?" he began with an air almost of sweet
reason. "If you want to tour, you must get back on the
airplane for Havana. There is nothing for visitors here, noth-
ing. The city is encircled by the bandits. We do not even
have enough to eat. No, you cannot be a tourist here."
I said defiantly, "Well, I am." And then I decided to
capitalize on my nervousness right away. I looked around
as if to be sure nobody else would hear me, and dropped
my trembling voice an octave* "You see you see, Officer, I'm
trying to evade the authorities."
260 What's A Woman Doing Here?
I had succeeded only in puzzling him a little. ''Evade the
authorities?" he repeated,
I said, rushing my words, "American authorities don't
zuant Marine uh Marine wives in the vicinity of the Guan-
tanamo naval base." And as if revealing a treasure, I picked
my glittering wallet out of the shambles the officer had made
of my purse and opened it to the picture of the Marine.
"Isn't he handsome ..." I sighed. He was, too.
But I was worried; I'd thrown my Sunday punch. One
more question of fact and I was done. I didn't know the
name of a single Marine on duty at Guantanamo.
The police inspector said doubtfully, "You're married?
Why don't you wear a wedding ring?"
Score the round for him. I was playing the Mata Hari
game just about as badly as I had done the last time. I hadn't
thought of a wedding ring. I blushed at my defeat. And then
realized a blush could mean something else.
"Well, we're going to be married ..." I said.
The officer's secret police mentality slid into gear at once.
Incredibly, he was smiling. Obviously he had doubts about
the position of marital bliss over international complication.
But stolen romance outranked it every time. /
"Okay, go ahead," he said, blessing me with a fourteen-
Once among the winding sidestreets of the city proper,
my courier delivered me to the quarters I was to occupy till
I could be led to Castro: a deluxe tourist court on the outer
edge of Santiago where the life of high adventure included
a fine restaurant, electric light, hot and cold running water
and a marathon gin rummy game in English. Other players
included an oil expert on his way back home to Texas, a
shellfish specimen collector from the University of Michigan
and my colleague, Andrew St. George.
Assignment in Cuba 261
Andrew at once told me to beg, borrow, stealor even buy
new cameras at once since my own certainly never would
be given back to me. Although I was outraged, his advice
made sense. I insisted my girl courier take the risk of driving
me around the city while I, with the worst possible grace,
assembled a new picture-taking outfit. I found a Japanese
35 mm. camera in a photo store, picked up half a dozen
rolls of dusty film from every drugstore we passed and finally
located a Leica I could borrow from one wealthy Castro
sympathizer and a lens from another. The only good thing
I could tell Andrew that evening over our card game about
my mismatched photo gear was that it was better than being
Andrew was sage again. He told me I'd probably be the
only correspondent with Castro during the month; he him-
self was on his way to New York and other reporters had
left earlier; the bearded revolutionary's campaign seemed
to be stalled at the gates of Santiago. Glumly I agreed I
probably was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
No doubt such mutual misjudgments are the only cer-
tainties of journalism. As matters worked out, before I left
Cuba nine weeks later, I was to see a whole sequence of
infantry actions, the end of the fighting and the installation
of Castro in the Presidential Palace in Havanathe biggest
news stories out of Cuba in many years.
My actual crossing from the city's edge into the country-
side where Castro's forces already ruled was an anticlimax,
an uneventful walk with another girl courier across a golf
course. The jeep that met us on the far side was driven by a
bearded rifleman who wore an arm patch reading 26 JULIO
(the 26th of July movement commanded by Fidel Castro).
After a few hours of grinding across cane fields and fording
streams, I was deep into Oriente Province at the farmhouse
262 What's A Woman Doing Heref
headquarters of the forces under the orders of Fidel Castro's
younger brother, Raul.
On my way to interview Fidel Castro, I covered four ac-
tions along the Central Highway in Oriente Province during
the next week the cuartel surrender at Alto Songo, the
burning of the fortress near the hamlet of San Luis, an as-
sault at the town of Jiguani and the last mortar barrage by
the Batistiano in the village of Maffo. I didn't see the barrage,
but I was a backhanded casualty because of it.
A few minutes before midnight on December 15, the main
square of Maffo was a No Man's Land. No shell or bullet
raked the buildings around it, though. The army garrison
behind the fortress walls on the north side of the square
and the rebels' thin line up the main street had agreed to an
hour's cease-fire from eleven o'clock to twelve.
The Batistiano stronghold looked utterly dark and still
as if it had just sucked in its breath. Nothing moved among
the houses of the village because most of the families had
left to take shelter in the nearby cane fields.
But the rebels affronted the tension with both light and
noise. At their command post in the drugstore, the shutters
had been flung up. On the glass counter behind the door
stood a flaring gasoline pressure lantern, the only light in
Maffo. Beside it was a portable phonograph, turntable ro-
tating busily. The speaker blared the militant hymn of the
rebels, filling the night with brass notes and bass beat*
When the song was done, a rebel officer stepped from the
shadows and picked up a bulbous silver microphone. He
was stocky, and the harsh light from the hissing lantern
gleamed from the triple-V of a captain's insignia on his
shoulders and from the heavy sweat on his face. Deliberately
placing himself to be an easy target if the garrison broke
the cease-fire, he began a hoarse harangue. He was pleading
Assignment in Cuba 263
with the soldiers to surrender at midnight instead of re-
suming firing. He called them friends and brothers.
As he talked, it came to me who he was Luis Orlando
Rodriguez, the Havana publisher whose newspaper La Calle
had been repressed repeatedly by Batista. Here, six hundred
miles from his confiscated presses, he was known as Capitano
Orlando, one of the ranking intellectuals of Cuba in uniform.
He set the microphone down on the glass counter with a
jarring noise, and a rebelde switched on the turntable again.
The hymn crashed out into the darkness and the captain
stepped over beside me at the building wall. He pointed to
my raised Leica, "You must have thought they were going to
shoot me/' he shouted over the music.
I said nothing. He looked down at the face of his gold
wrist watch. "Not now, they won't shoot. But the cease-fire
will end soon now. Then I think they will fight very hard.
It is it is " He was speaking English and he groped for
the right word. "It is tragic. I will try to talk with them again,
but" He passed his hands over his face, smoothing for an
instant the deeply carved lines of weariness.
He went on, "You, Americana, get in the jeep now and
get out of the light. My mortar crew has no ammunition;
there is no need for them to stay here either. They will go
away in the jeep too." Out of the shadows in the back of
the store four young rebelde moved uneasily, their eyes fixed
on the captain's face. The nearest was immensely tall, brown-
skinned, very thin.
The captain said, "This man's name is Luis like my own.
He will show you the way. Now go."
Stepping quickly through the buildings and running bent-
over across a cavernous side street, Luis led the four of us
to a jeep. I had come up to the front in it earlier, and I knew
its tense and tiny driver, Georgi, as the best jeep mechanic
in the battalion.
264 What's A Woman Doing Here?
Georgi did not need to be urged to move out. Deftly he
started the motor without gunning it so the brassy music
covered its noise. In low gear, he sidled along a curving lane
till we were behind a ground rise covered by bushy trees.
Then he parked and Luis led us toward a deep ditch. "If
we lie flat here we are safe from anything but mortars." He
threw himself beneath the ditch lip.
I did as he had done. He went on with a breathy chuckle,
"I never thought to see an American in the mud like a pig,
as we lie now/'
I didn't reply since I was under his orders. But I felt a
flicker of indignation. Taking cover when you had somehow
been reduced to the role of an ineffective struck me as no
indignity at all Yet in Luis' eyes I knew I had compromised
my country's face. I pondered what else I
A mortar shell crumped down, inexplicably far to our
left. The lantern glimmer we had seen from the drugstore
went dark and the phonograph choked off in mid-bar.
"... not good here ..." I heard Luis gasp as we ran for
the jeep. As we three climbed in the front, I sensed half a
dozen others piling into the back.
Georgi's foot was heavy on the gas pedal. The rutted lane
jolting under us became the smoother asphalt of the main
road out of Maffo. There was a crackle of rifles behind us,
many talking at once. Luis was shouting at Georgi-some-
thing about the one sure mortar target in the whole village
being where we were. It made sense that the mortars from
inside the cuartel would aim to cut off the main road.
Georgi acknowledged this likelihood with a grunt. The
jeep suddenly was speeding faster than I had ever ridden in
a jeep before. We crested a hill and started down, going
faster and faster too fast to control and still accelerating . . .
I was sitting in front between Georgi and Luis. The jeep
had never had any brakes in the time I knew it. Now the
Assignment in Cuba 265
clutch had gone out. There was no way to stop it. And we
were going downhill.
The men were jumping from the back seat. Suddenly
Georgi was not with us any more; the driver's seat to my left
was empty. I knew it was too late for me to jump. Luis had
not gone either and as I curled around my own knees with
my shoulder blocked into the dashboard, I could sense him
moving over me like a shield.
The jeep at its highest speed now brushed against an earth
bank on the left of the road. It rocketed into the air. It
flipped upside down. Luis and I were dropped free.
I did not hear the jeep's final head-on crash into the other
bank. In total darkness on warm asphalt my breath came
back to me; I was lying on my stomach with my arms under
me as if they had helped to break my fall. The first sound
in my ears was a man's scream. It came again. Then it was
throttled. I tried to move toward the sound and suddenly
knew my numb right leg would not carry me.
The thudding mortar fire and the stuttering rifles seemed
very far away. I had a quick mental picture of the dark
downhill road, strewn with hurt and gasping bundles that
had been people.
The first bundle to which I crawled was Luis, still shud-
dering in his struggle back to consciousness. I could not tell
if he was hurt. Then Georgi stood in front of us, a silhouette
with bowed shoulders.
"Horses . . ." he was saying. "I go for horses from the
finca . . .*'
Luis pushed himself almost to his knees. Then he fell
back, still not able to speak.
Georgi went on, "but youll have to wait to go to the
hospital. The one villager he who screamed is dying. I
think. Gasoline drum fell on him. Cut him apart/' Georgi
tried to take a deep breath and his voice cracked as the
266 What's A Woman Doing Here?
last words spilled out. "Luis, I know I should not have
jumped . . ."
Then he was gone in the darkness. I was not sure Luis
had even heard him. After a time, Luis sat up. He gritted
his teeth, very white in the black around us. "He knows. He
knows it shames us, what he did. It was his duty to stay
with the jeep."
Through the two-hour trek on plodding farm horses by
which we reached the place Georgi had called "the hospital/'
Luis and he, pacing on either side of me, said no word to
The place for the wounded was a long crooked shed used
in peacetime for drying fresh-picked coffee. It was staffed by
two doctors, a bearded older man and a sturdy light-haired
woman. They wore civilian clothing with 26 JULIO arm-
Under the sheet-metal roof of the shed hung two flicker-
ing kerosene lanterns. Toward one end stood six shabby
beds and a canvas cot. A rolled mattress disgorging its stuffing
rested against one wooden wall. In the center of the space
stood a dining room table. A white enamel basin and a
canvas roll of surgical instruments gleamed on it.
At first there were three patients in the beds, two young
rebels motionless under rumpled blankets, and one old man
with graying stubble on his chin who tried to sit up under
a torn sheet so he could see the knot of people shifting
around the next bed. They were carrying an inert form in
their arms the man on whom the gasoline drum had fallen.
The woman doctor, a surgeon, had done for him what she
could but as she turned away I was not sure if she thought
he would live or die. The woman was surprisingly young and
inexpressibly weary. She was holding a morphine syrette in
her hand, the kind American army medics carry on their
belts. With a sad spare gesture she threw it into a cardboard
Assignment in Cuba 267
carton of used bandages. "Final" she said to no one in par-
ticular. The last anesthetic.
Then the bearded doctor was telling Luis and me that we
must crawl out of his way. My ankle was not broken, only
sprained and swelling, and Luis, though holding his stom-
ach in pain, didn't seem in shock any more. We had been
sitting on the earth floor with our backs against the rolled
mattress, now needed for another bed. Then all the casual-
ties from the mortar barrage arrived at almost the same
minute. Before the next hour passed, there were a dozen
newly wounded in the hospital. Four bodies, candles burn-
ing at their feet, lay in a row at the dark end of the shed.
The floor was wet with blood.
The last hurt man was the most memorable. His eyes
flickered sometimes but he did not seem to be conscious.
His midsection was swathed in rags. With one arm he
clutched his bandages. The other hand seemed to have a
life of its own, opening and closing in spasms.
Standing over him I saw the stocky figure of Capitano
"Captain, are you wounded?" I asked, half crawling to his
side. I did not think at first that he had heard me. Not tak-
ing his eyes from the hurt man's face, he answered, "I am
all right. But he he has a bad wound. Shrapnel. In the
Then the captain seemed to see me. "This man was my
very good friend for a long time. It is not right that he
should be like this. Not while I am unhurt. You see, we
tried so hard to keep them from shooting. Even after the
cease-fire was over, we kept on talking to them. We put the
loudspeaker on the truck and we drove into a field. We did
not stop talking. Perhaps someone told them where we were
somehow they found out, and their mortar hit the truck.
Over and over.
268 What's A Woman Doing Here?
"Look, Americana" he went on, narrowing his eyes at
me, "this man's story you must tell even if you do not tell
other stories. For he is not even a Cuban, only one who
hates tyranny. He is a Dominican. He fights with us against
Batista now so we will fight with him against Trujillo later.
If if ever he is able to fight again."
I nodded. 1 knew why the editor-capitano felt this story
was important. About one out of every ten rebel fighters I'd
seen came from some other Latin American land; there
were so many non-Cuban volunteers to Castro's forcesfrom
Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador and
Panama that the rebel leader had eliminated an oath of
loyalty to him lest they jeopardize their chances to go back
The woman surgeon stood on the other side of the hurt
Dominican. "I know he is your friend, Capitano Orlando/'
she said. "But I cannot operate now. I have no light, no
anesthetic. And it will be a long operation. We will try to
keep him alive until tomorrow. Then I will tell you if I
can save him."
The captain had been gazing at his fiiend. He turned and
gestured to me. "I have a truck outside and I am going to
Dr. Fidel now. If you can climb aboard, come with me and
you shall see him." And he handed me his carbine to use
for a crutch.
Through a pelting tropical downpour at dawn the next
day, I was led a mile on foot, limp and all, out to a cave on
a hillside, the command post for the 26th of July forces.
For the next six days, I shuttled from this cave to a second
one to a farmhouse which served successively as Fidel Cas-
tro's personal headquarters. The house was a thousand yards
from the front at the village of Jiguani, sixty-five miles west
along the Central Highway west of Santiago.
Assignment in Cuba 269
Whenever I walked the jungle paths up to the headquar-
ters by myself, I wanted Castro's notoriously trigger-happy
body guards to know who I was even if I couldn't identify
myself to them in their language. So as soon as I came within
range I started in singing in as high a soprano as I could
manage From the halls of Montezuma . . . The combina-
tion of voice and tune should spell "American woman" in
any tongue. Apparently it did for I wasn't actually fired
on and not all Castro's visitors were that lucky.
The first morning in the command post cave I witnessed a
"touching" family reunion.
Months before, Fidel had sent off his younger brother
Raul into the territory north of the Central Highway which
was then under tight Batistiano control. It was said that
giving Raul this mission was the hostile act of an older
brother to a troublesome younger one, that Fidel meant
Raul to fail and even die. But Raul had been careful to
take with him three battalions of rebel infantry, including
Major Lusson's which I had known at La Maya. And now
in mid-December, Raul was returning in triumph to his
older brother to report that but for a few city strongholds,
all Oriente Province from the main road to the north coast
of Cuba had been wrested by his forces from Batista's men.
In military language, the Castro front at last was consoli-
dated across the Central Highway.
So whatever differences had existed between the brothers
were buried and everyone was jubilant. Fidel, tremendous
in wet and muddy fatigues, laughed deeply as he swung back
and forth in a hammock. Raul spoke shrilly and incessantly
of his victories. Celia Sanchez, the woman who had been at
Fidel's side for several years, hovered there now, thin and
febrile in her green twill uniform with five gold religious
medals swinging on chains around her neck. Vilma Espin,
later to become Mrs. Raul Castro, smiled upon the company
270 What's A Woman Doing Here?
as she toyed with a new Belgian submachine gun presented
to her as a token of Raul's triumphs.
In the background, but with their smiles a benediction,
were two short handsome men old enough to have heavy
gray in their combed beards Hubert Matos and Eduardo
Chibas, a one-time judge and a one-time lawyer now both
infantry captains like their fellow-intellectual, Capitano Or-
lando. (To date according to the reports, Matos has been
executed, Chibas is in exile and Orlando is missing.)
The normal scene in Castro's command post was less
genial than my first impression but never less frenetic.
Typically, it was a shifting knot of bearded officers and
ragged messengers. The longer the beard, the longer its
wearer had been a rebel.
The staccato rhythm of the hasty conferences, as orders
were sent out and messages received, was puctuated by
radio transmissions. These usually were spoken by Castro
himself. He would grasp the walkie-talkie as if it were an
enemy's throat and, in a voice to rouse the countryside, be-
gin, "Urgente, urgente!" He never spoke in any kind of
code and much of Cuba could follow the battles by simply
tuning in on the Castro tactical transmissions.
The emotional tension around him rarely lessened; he
conveyed high pressure in every movement and was never
still. His normal state of ease was a purposeful forty-inch
stride forward, then back (it was nearly impossible to pho-
tograph him). His speaking voice was surprisingly soft and
his incessant speech distinct. His manner of giving praise
was a bear hug, his encouragement a heavy hand on the
shoulder, his criticism an earthquake loss of temper. He
reacted with Gargantuan anger to every report of dead and
wounded; I considered this evidence that he had never suf-
fered the magnitude of losses Batista claimed. Once, when
nine of his men had been killed at Jiguani in a single action,
Assignment in Cuba 271
he insisted I go out to make close-ups of each body "so their
martyrdom will not be forgotten by the world/'
The overwhelming fault in his character was plain for
all to see even then. This was his inability to tolerate the
absence of an enemy; he had to stand or better, rant and
shoutagainst some challenge every waking moment. His
best tactical officers used this vast appetite for hostility to
their own gain. A commander who needed fresh ammuni-
tion, for instance, could be sure he would get it not by
making a reasonable request but by charging up to his
commander, standing rock steady and shouting up at the
great bearded face, "Dr. Fidel, I tell you you have been a
fool not to support me! You should have known I needed
more shells !"
Like everyone else in the headquarters, I soon found my
own manners conforming. If I'd heard a rumor of a jeep
heading for the front but could not find it, I'd rail at any
bearded officer that I was tired of having Cubans lie to me;
where the devil was my jeep? Neither my illogic nor my
untruthfulness mattered. Since my sincerity had been at-
tested by my apparent Latin loss of temper, someone would
go looking for a jeep.
That this twist of farce would someday lead to political
tragedy that the Reds would make of Castro's need for a
powerful enemy a means of infiltrating his government, in-
spiring him to rattle their rockets against America long
after Batista was gone this I did not guess. Only its patho-
logical overtones were plain.
In the rare times when he spoke quietly, Castro revealed
a fine incisive mind utterly ill-matching the psychopathic
temperament which subdued it. He liked to boast of his
encyclopedic knowledge of the Batistiano soldiers. He said
his secret weapon lay in his enemies' minds; they did not
272 What's A Woman Doing Here?
want to risk themselves for what they presumably were
sworn to defend the regime of Batista.
Every action I had seen bore out this thesis, Batista's men
began by standing fast or moving out briskly until the first
rebel bullets struck among them. Then came the critical
moment, the military "moment of truth." Should they keep
moving under fire long enough to open up with their su-
perior weapons, take minor losses and almost certainly win
the action? Or should they drop their arms, abandon their
vehicles and flee-losing the battle unfought but surely
saving every individual one of their own skins?
By all the military theory since Hannibal, Batista's men
still held the advantage. If machinery won wars, they would
have been victorious, for the rebelde faced strafing planes
and armored cars with rifles and light machine guns. But
the bearded ones made up their adversaries' minds with an
unfaltering hail of lead. I had watched them keep on firing
regardless of hazard till there was nothing left to shoot at.
This was the one tactic Castro had seen they were prepared
to use, and they had mastered it.
The final blow to any Batistiano's will to fight was the
way in which Castro handled prisoners of war. When he was
done with them he did not need to feed or bury them. They
remained a problem only to Batista; they had been unfitted
to fight, certainly to fight against Castro again.
Before I left the United States, the underground had
briefed me on this tactic. "Fidel returns prisoners without
Intimidating them. We do not exchange them, you under-
stand; not one of ours has ever been returned. But we dis-
arm our enemies when we capture them and send them
back home through the Cuban Red Cross."
I had been cynical about this claim. Near La Maya one
afternoon I remarked to one of Castro's company command-
ers that I would be much surprised to see unintimidated,
Assignment in Cuba 273
unwounded prisoners being returned in the middle of a
shooting war. This remark was a mistake.
The next day I watched the surrender of the soldiers from
the cuartel. The prisoners were gathered within a hollow
square of rebel submachine gunners and harangued in the
twilight by Raul.
"We hope that you will stay with us and fight against the
master who has so ill-used you. If you decide to refuse this
invitation and I am not going to repeat it you will be
delivered to the custody of the Cuban Red Cross tomorrow.
Once you are under Batista's orders again, we hope that
you will not take up arms against us. But if you do, remem-
"We took you this time. We can take you again. And
when we do, we will not frighten or torture or kill you, any
more than we are frightening you in this moment. If you are
captured a second or even a third time we will again return
you exactly as we are doing now."
This expression of utter contempt for the fighting poten-
tial of the defeated had an almost physical impact. Some
actually flinched as they listened.
The following noon, I could not question that these men
were returned unharmed. One of Castro's lieutenants handed
me a pencil and notebook as I came up to cover the delivery
of the prisoners to the Red Cross.
"You count them for us, Americana/' he said. There were
242, and I watched them ride away toward Santiago in
trucks and busses bearing the cross markings on their canvas
Thus Castro, in the name of humanitarianism, was able
to inflict on his enemies the wgrst fate he could imagine for
himselfthe deprivation of emnity.
Two days before Christmas, 1958, a report reached the
274 What's A Woman Doing Heref
Castro command post that the Central Highway, from the
village of Jiguani where fighting continued, almost back to
Santiago where I wanted to return, now lay in rebelde hands.
All sixty-five miles of it. I was to go along on the jeep patrol
whpse mission it was to make certain the road lay clear of
With two scouts, one of whom spoke pidgin-English, I left
just after sundown. We broke the trip for a few hours sleep
in a company command post a deserted farm just before
dawn. At sunrise, as we drew up to a blown-out bridge, the
rebels on post there told us this was the end of the liberated
highway stretch. I'd have to walk the last twelve miles into
Santiago but I had all day to do it in. The scouts walked me
through a cane field to another little farmhouse and dropped
me off, reminding me it was time to change my clothes.
The two families who shared the house had not left, in
spite of the rifle fire we could hear crackling from the far
side of a ridge. The women showed me into the bedroom
and smiling, they brought a big white basin of water and a
small green piece of soap. I washed and was ready to assume
a new identity.
I took off the dirty blue-green shirt and muddy cotton
slacks I'd worn for the last few weeks. Out of my one piece
of baggage a plaid canvas zipper bag I pulled the white
shirt saved for just this moment and my one remaining pair
of slacks, beige and tourist-type. One of the women brought
me some bright red shoe polish and with an old T-shirt, I
made my limp oxfords gleam. At the back of my head I
pinned a red hair ribbon with a big bow so it would perch
jauntily on my bun.
I'd walked into their farmhouse a soldier-type female with
dirty fatigues, long hair in a pony tail, and a grimy suntan.
I walked out a typically groomed tourist with a spotless
blouse, brushed hair high under a bow, vividly made up,
Assignment in Cuba 275
wearing shoes with a mirror shine. Now when I ran up
against the nearest of Batista's people, they wouldn't know
where I had come from.
My guide for the twelve-mile walk was to be a sturdy
thirteen-year-old boy named Carlos; the scouts told me he
would show me the paths into Santiago and carry my bag.
I demurred at parting from it; it contained my precious
exposed film. But would a tourist lady carry her own lug-
gage? My guide evidently thought not.
So Carlos and I set out down a winding mud road that
ran along a range of green hills just west of the shooting. It
was shaded by drooping willow trees, and the late morning
sunlight flickered through the branches.
Carlos was unimpressed by the sound of the rifle fire; he
even whistled as we walked. If we were trying not to attract
Batistiano attention so soon, though, I didn't think much of
his choice of tune. It was the Castro revolutionaries' hymn.
In half an hour, the noise of firing had almost died away
behind us. But there was a new noise. A jeep. We stood
somewhat fearfully waiting for it to appear. In a few minutes
it pulled up alongside us, the 26th of July insignia painted
across the hood. A bearded captain stepped out and ex-
tended his hand to me. He spoke fluent English and said he
knew who I was. "I am distressed that you are walking after
you were so severely wounded at Maffo," he began in courtly
fashion (I still had a deep limp). I told him I had not exactly
been wounded, that I'd fallen victim to a Castro jeep and
not a Batista shell.
He did not think my joke very funny and solemnly said
he would take me a few miles nearer the city. Carlos and I
both boarded the jeep and shortly were joined in the back
seat by a rifleman and a girl in rebel uniform who suddenly
appeared out of a cane field.
We rocked along a little farther until Carlos cried shrilly,
276 What's A Woman Doing Here?
"Avion! Venti-seis!" Airplane. Twenty-six, the B-26. We
looked up and all of us exploded out of the braking jeep.
The familiar silhouette was turning overhead to make a
There was no ditch but only a long bush-covered embank-
ment and we spilled down after the captain. He seemed to
have spotted some cover off to one side. As I started to run
I missed my plaid bag with the film; it had been resting
across Carlos' knees in the jeep. Now it was rolling end-
over-end down the embankment ahead of me. It came to
rest a dozen yards inside a plowed field.
I glanced at the strafing plane. I decided we hadn't been
its target after all, and the jeep (which might still be a prime
target) was nowhere to be seen. The plane seemed to have
started a run on the next valley.
Almost leisurely I limped into the field and picked up my
bag. The plaid would have been glaringly conspicuous from
the air and I felt lucky to have retrieved it before the B-26
gunner noticed I was the only sign of human movement
But the B-26 hadn't been quite so committed to that
farther target. It was circling now to line up with our road.
This was about the same as lining up with me from my
point of view. I needed concealment fast but I'd lost sight
of the rest of the party who presumably had found some.
Almost at my feet was a deep dry ditch choked with broad-
leaved weeds. All I had to do was roll into the ditch and the
leaves would close over me again and . . .
I lay flat in the ditch bottom, drawing a deep breath as I
clutched my plaid bag. As the B-26 started to bore in, the
thought burst on me that I wasn't wearing that old blue-
green shirt that had blended with leaves. I was wearing a
blazing white one. If the sun could reach me through the
leaves above and it was doing just that the leaves wouldn't
Assignment in Cuba 277
hide the shirt from the B-26 gunner. This was the third time
I'd misjudged a strafing run since I'd come to Cuba. Had the
other two used up all the luck a nearsighted reporter could
be expected to have? It would be too bitter to be hit now,
on my way out!
The shells from the plane's pass struck the road, then the
embankment and stopped. While the bomber was pulling
up, I knew I ought to try to improve my position. But how?
I heard a shout. "Here! Run now and you can make it!"
It was the captain. He was calling from a deep concrete
culvert under the road. By lying flat and shoving close to-
gether, all of us complete with the men's weapons and my
film were out of reach of the strafer's bullets.
We waited almost an hour before the plane disappeared.
After we climbed stiffly from the culvert, the captain said
he'd have to wait till after dark before he tried to use the
road again. "And you" addressing me "might just as well
go back to walking even if you are uh, wounded." I agreed
and we shook hands.
Four hours later with Carlos still beside me whistling the
revolutionaries' hymn, we had hiked through sideroads into
a suburb of Santiago. I made a present to the boy of half a
dozen rolls of unexposed film. He grinned up at me from
underneath his curly forelock as if this were more than he
expected, and turned to go back the way we'd come. Then
I hailed a cruising taxicab like any other footsore tourist.
Once I leaned back in it, I had a moment of pure panic.
I couldn't remember the name of the motel across the city
where I'd been told to report to the Castro underground.
But I thought I could direct the cab to the general locality.
There was something I wanted to see on the way even if
it did mean a little detour.
"Take me slowly past the American Consulate," I told the
278 What's A Woman Doing Here?
He did and there, against the deepening afternoon blue of
the tropic sky, the flag of the United States was fluttering in
a gentle breeze.
In less than two years after Fidel Castro took over in Cuba,
he had carved out a historic niche almost big enough to fit
his image of himself.
Bloodshed in Cuba has only just begun. I know grimly
that this is one story of violence about which I will be writ-
ing for the rest of my life as a reporter. Probably I will again
run for cover, see bullets strike, hear the sound of hurting
people on the island.
17. With My Eyes Wide Open
UP IN THE AIR on stilts thirty-four feet long is a little
wooden shack overlooking a sandy field in Kentucky. To
enter its back door, you climb five flights of worn, winding,
wooden steps. To go out the front, you jump off into thin
This is a paratroop training tower. One out of every six-
teen volunteers for airborne duty will not leap out on his
sergeant's order even though he knows he is harnessed to an
inclined trolley wire and can fall free only about twenty-five
feet down. In the instant of refusal, he is a paratroop trainee
The chance to make a tower jump sometimes is offered to
civilian visitors by the 101st Airborne Division, to whom
the field, the tower and the surrounding base, Fort Camp-
bell, are home. When I was first sent there to write a maga-
zine article, the Pentagon built me up handsomely to the
paratroopers, mentioning that as a reporter I had been at-
tached to more than thirty fighting forces "including her
service in the field with the British, the Turks, the Algerians,
the Arab Legion, the Chinese Marines and the Korean in-
fantry/' The Division responded by offering me their warm-
est hospitality. They told me I was welcome to jump out of
their tower any time.
280 What's A Woman Doing Here?
After which I had to go and do it, not once but three
On a hot afternoon in July of 1959, the moment came.
I was due for the first time to make a series of tower jumps
using correct military technique to leap on command, to
count out loud while falling, to straighten the twists in the
suspension, rig after my drop had been arrested, to touch
down on the hilltop 150 feet away, where the trolley wire
ended, with my feet together, my arms raised and my eyes
high as if I were making a real parachute jump. If 1 could
learn to do it right twice in succession, the U.S. Army would
permit me to jump with troops on a maneuver that same
night, the first time a woman had ever done so.
Official witness to the test was the fabled Major Lewis
Millett, winner in Korea of the Congressional Medal of
Honor and commandant of the Division's reconnaissance
and commando training. As if it were a scene from a movie
I'd photographed, I can run the next few moments before
my mind's eye.
The major, boots gleaming, stands at the foot of the tower.
He is a tremendous figure in green fatigues with shoulders
and blond mustache tips two eye-jumps across. He has sta-
tioned himself there not only so he can see me but so I will
have to look straight down before I leap.
His shout floats up, "How far down does it look?"
I fixed my eyes on him, smother a flinch (it looks about a
mile; it always does) and make the ritual answer. "Thir ty
"Go!" The sergeant behind me has tapped me with two
I do. I seem to have jumped late and slipped into a state
of panic beside. But when the harness jerks me upright, my
ankles touch, my hands clutch the reserve chute strapped to
my waist, my chin cuts into my chest. All the approved
With My Eyes Wide Open 281
gestures. I have heard my breathy voice shout as I fell,
"Onethousand two thou sand ..." I know I've for-
gotten what number was to have come next but I don't think
the omission showed.
I walk back from the sand ridge to the tower feeling I
haven't done badly. But when, stifling my need to pant, I
walk past Major Millett, the expression on his face is not
After I've climbed back up and am poised on the lip of
the exit hatch, I find out what displeases him.
"Look here/' he commands. It is still a mile of empty
air straight down but I can see his face distinctly. His heavy
features are a study in contempt, his ice-blue eyes are nar-
rowed. His voice whip-lashes up,
"I tell you there is abso lutely no reason to close your
eyes. As you fall, look at me look at me and tell me later
whether I had iny cap on or off."
Go } taps the sergeant.
I look at the major after I've leaped. He must have been
right that I'd been squeezing my eyes shut because I have to
try hard to keep them open. But I manage to see him clearly
this time. I slide down the trolley wire, walk back and say,
trying not to let my voice quiver, "Your cap was off/' I know
I've forgotten something again, but it comes back to me.
"Do it again," grunts the major, "and remember, there is
absolutely no reason to close your eyes."
Major Milieu's unequivocal shout is for me the cardinal
principle for reporters and surely the litany of my work as
one. There is absolutely no reason to close your eyes.
No matter what is happening to you, no matter what other
people around you are doing, you're the one who later must
be able to say you know what occurred because you were
looking at it as it happened. Other people have other mis-
282 What's A Woman Doing Here?
sions they can fight or halt or persuade or negotiate or
barter or build or write symphonies. You may be free to do
all those things or none, but what matters is that you keep
your eyes open. If you call yourself a correspondent, your
reason for being is first to see.
And then, of course, to tell.
There is an old joke that American foreign correspondents
have no trouble recognizing one another overseas. Who else
has a British trenchcoat, an Italian typewriter, Japanese
cameras and a Swiss watch?
Recently I've learned there's another way you can tell a
veteran. American reporters are the only ones who as soon
as they grow too old to ask themselves if they're full-fledged
correspondents, immediately begin asking why.
Several months after my training exercise with the 101st
Airborne Division, I was in a barracks classroom on Okinawa,
The men of the U.S. Army's ist Special Forces Group were
being briefed about a maneuver jump, a rehearsal for the
way they may need to vault battle lines to link up with
Asian freedom fighters someday. I am going with them.
The briefing officer's voice drones on:
"We will proceed for one hour fifty-eight minutes on
course 350 degrees at 25,000 feet . . . jump altitude will be
1200 feet. There is a water hazard on three sides of the
drop zone. Teams will drop at fifteen-minute intervals be-
ginning at twenty hundred hours , . ."
Two hours aloft on course 350 degrees means that we are
going to South Korea. Flying five miles up means we had
better be prepared for cold. The 1200-foot jump is high for
war, standard for peace. It means a man has nine seconds
to live if his parachute doesn't open, less than a minute to
float down if it does. The time of the jump, eight P.M., means
it will be dark. We are landing on a sand island in the mid-
With My Eyes Wide Open 283
die of the River Han outside Seoul, and we may need to
sideslip the parachutes away from the water.
We board a giant Hercules at Naha Air Base an hour later.
During the shattering thunder of lifting from the earth, the
tension barely showsby a trooper's second glance out the
porthole, a jumper's hand closing on itself, the shifting of
a man's weight in the canvas seats lining both walls of the
compartment. The metal cavern is brightly lit and the
walls are marked with blunt signs: CUT HERE FOR RESCUE . . .
DO NOT USE THIS TIER OF STRETCHERS EXCEPT FOR EMERGENCY
... DO NOT OPEN HATCH IN FLIGHT ... a mountain of para-
chutes is lashed down the center of the plane's interior.
Aloft, some of the men seem to doze, their weapons cra-
dled in their arms. But one medic is reading a detective
story, and there's a pinochle game up forward. An hour out,
with the sky darkening through the portholes, some of the
men reach under their seats for white cardboard boxes box
lunches, and the last chance to eat before we jump. I munch
a sandwich and an apple. Both taste as if made from the box.
Colonel Francis B. Mills, a one-time guerilla leader and
now a Special Forces professional, is our officer. He has been
sleeping sitting up. An airman from the plane crew ap-
proaches him. His shadow brings the colonel awake at once.
"We must be over Korea, son," the colonel says. It is time
to chute up.
I climb into an extra layer of warm clothing and button
it as if my hands were steady. The operations sergeant holds
out my chute harness like an escort holding his lady's ermine
cape at the opera. In time I remember which arm and leg
pass through which set of the wide green straps. When I
have pulled them in, he tugs each of the four sets tighter. I
remember the old rule, "If you can breathe, the harness is
too loose." So I gasp, "It's all right," and he turns away to
put on his own harness, main chute, reserve chute, lifebelt,
284 What's A Woman Doing Here?
helmet, canteens, first aid kit, web belt, trench knife, ammo,
carbine and packs.
Like the houselights sinking in a theatre, the bright bulbs
lighting the compartment now go dark. We see only by a
dim orange glow. The plane has been ' 'redded out" so our
eyes will be adapted to the blackness outside before we jump
into it. The airman grunts as he slides open the door on
the right side of the plane through which we will exit, and
the hurricane wind out there almost out-thunders the en-
When the grizzled sergeant serving as jumpmaster signals
with a hand and thumbsix minutes the first team forms
its line. The colonel, his legs braced and his hands on each
side of the door frame, is No. 1. I am No. 2 and the opera-
tions sergeant is No. 3. There is a taut braided steel wire
passing over our shoulders to which we now reach up as
though praying and fasten the rip cords which will open the
chutes on our backs. The vital hook on the end of the cord
locks doubly and you can hear its mechanism bite on itself.
I feel a flash of understanding of why people undertake
this kind of mission, war or peace. Right now each of us
with one exception is free of every choice of action. I have
no decision to make and, thanks to that image the military
lexicon calls leadership, I do not want one. If the colonel
jumps, I know inexorably I will jump. If he does not, I
I remember how I once marveled that jumpers over target
seemed anxious to leave the haven of the plane. Suddenly,
with the sin of pride, I realize that this has happened to me.
My mind is reaching out of the racketing plane into the
dark stillness I know lies just beyond the hurricane of the
slipstream. It will be so quiet out there.
I focus my eyes on the colonel's right hand where the
fingers curl around the door edge. The jump lights still red
With My Eyes Wide Open 285
glow like jewels above his soft white leather glove on the
door frame. Suddenly the light turns green then the door
before me is empty.
Step. Pivotwas it supposed to be the left or the right foot
last? Never mind. Put-your-head-down-to-be-sure-you-can-see-
your-feet-are-together-and ... I push with rny palms on the
icy metal of the door edge and gasp and the plane is gone.
A giant irresistible hand is slowing me, the 150-mile-an-
hour slipstream of the plane. Curled around my reserve
chute, I am being wheeled over by the blast as I fall, and I
would count out loud as I was taught except I've forgotten
again what number comes after two.
I'm tugged upright, and the chute is full, radiant and
splendid in the starlight above me.
Did I remembernot to close my eyes?
About the Pliotographs
I learned to take pictures using a 4 x 5-inch Speed Graphic
augmented by a leather shoulder-case weighing at least 20 pounds.
From 1947 with the Quakers through 1953 in Point Four's service,
I used a standard Rolleiflex, 2 x 2-inch negative; this involved a
carrying case weighing more than 15 pounds.
Since then, my outfit has consisted only of two Leica bodies and
three Leica lenses the 28, 35 and 90mm. The negatives of course
are 35mm. In the field I wear the Leicas on crossed neck-straps,
one under each arm, so they do not tire me or get in the way if I
have to leave my feet. I used a leather case for my film when
traveling long distance, but in the field I fasten the film roll by
roll to the camera straps so I do not need to carry any photo-
graphic equipment case at all. I do not use flash any more, and
I try to use only four types of film: black-and-white of ratings ASA
(American Standards Association) 160 and 500, and color of
ratings ASA 32 and 160.
The only field gear I have now is the small U.S. combat pack.
With a change of fatigues and socks, soap and towel, a can of C
ration and my extra film, I can live and work up to three weeks
with what I can carry on my back (the whole pack weighs less
than 15 pounds).
Self-satisfied self-portrait on the occasion of the delivery of my first cre-
dentials to the armed forces of the United States (to the 14th Infantry for
LOOK) . Washington, D.C., May 1942. The felt armband with the white
letter "C" on it appears reversed because the picture was taken into a
hotel room mirror. The armband was the only badge of a correspondent's
accreditation at that time (the uniform and brass insignia didn't come
Panama Canal Zone, July 1942. Stripped to the waist-artillerymen of the
Bushmasters, the 14th Infantry, U.S. Army, manhandle the weapon whose
firing blasted me off my feet.
Flat on their backs the Bushmasters learn to cut barbed wire under live
machine gun fire.
Iwo Jima, February 1945. View from the flying bridge of the C/.S.S. Samar-
itan shortly after dawn on D Day plus 6. The mountain through the haxe
is Suribachi. The boats are ferrying the wounded from the beach to the
View from the well deck of the U.H.S. Samaritan on D Day plus 6 or 7
showing wounded Marines about to be lifted aboard the hospital ship.
Iwo Jima. Corporal Bill Fenton from Pennsylvania, one of the 551 criti-
cally wounded Marines brought aboard the U.S.S. Samaritan who wanted
to live. He did. (I visited him and his family ten months later on Christ-
inas Day at St. Albans Hospital.) Under the overclramatic title of The
Dying Marine, this became the most widely reproduced photograph I
In the ward for abdominal wounds, fourteen pints of blood so changed
Pfc. Johnnie Hood overnight that I lost my bet to him.
Vi w of the Marme field hospital beside the runway on Motoyama Air-
field No. 1 on Iwo Jima on D Day plus 12. Shown are three Navy phvsi-
aans resting during the first period of quiet since the battle beJn The
ward tent is at the right. Two air evacuation planes to take out wounded
are parked on the runway,
Pic. George Bebbington of New Jersey waiting his turn for treatment in
the ward tent on Iwo. His stretcher is dug in so that his head rests below
the level of the earth. His injury was to his legs. He could not smoke;
what he is holding in his right hand is a flexible tube through which he
can suck water from his canteen cup.
Looking across the Marine field hospital and runways of Motoyama Air-
field No. 1 toward Suribachi; supply ships of the invasion fleet are to the
right of it.
The cemetery for the war dead on Guam. The body of a fighting man who
died of wounds received during the battle for Iwo Jima is being lowered
into the earth. March 1945.
Lt. Cmdr. John S. Cowan (now the ranking medical officer of the Atlantic
Fleet) at the command post of the Sixth Marine Division "in the field"
near Nago, Okinawa, on L Day plus 5, April 1945,
Treatment with blood of a combat fatigue Marine casualty by Comdr.
Solomon (left), the Sixth Division psychiatrist, in the field hospital in
an abandoned school building on L Day plus 8, 9, 10 in the vicinity of
Nago. Okinawa, April 1945.
Hungarian refugee family escaping on loot out of Hungary in November
1956 toward the bridge at Andau but still a kilometer from safety. Ten
days after this picture appeared in the Dec. 3 issue of LIFE, a copy was
scornfully shown me in the F6 Street prison by my communist interro-
A Hungarian refugee making her way across a rope-and-log bridge near
the village of Tamsweg at the Austro-Hungarian border. My camera's
flash knocked her off her precarious perch; the water was not deep but
paralyzingly cold. I couldn't find any way to apologize, though I tried.
Vicinity Colonib Beshar, Algerian Sahara, August 1957. Algerian Bedouin
youngster pledging that he will kill his father "with joy" if the father
should serve the French forces in the guerrilla warfare. The soldier ap-
proving his declaration is from the FLN rebel Scorpion battalion to
which I was attached.
Defendant (left foreground) testifying at his trial for ' 'killing with his
knife more women and children than he could count" on orders of the
French soldiers. FLN battalion commander, Capt. Ben Chafa is in the
right foreground. The cave, the mountain command post of the unit, was
in the Ksour hill range several clays' patrolling northeast of Colomb Beshar.
Lust service to the convicted Algerian was the removal ol' his handaiil's.
Exactly two minutes after I took this picture the rebel firing squad had
Off the coast of Greece, November 1957, Here I am on a ship to ship trans-
fer over the water to the carrier U.S.S. Roosevelt, with the Sixth Fleet in
the Mediterranean. Photo: U.S. Navy,
Lebanon, August 1958. Paratrooper just before jumping over an unknown
dropzone on a "training exercise" during the crisis in Lebanon. This is
one of the first pictures of a paratrooper I ever made, months before I had
the notion to jump myself. But it is the picture I think of first in connec-
tion with the command, "You will keep your eyes wide open," Somehow
the lieutenant's face expresses just about the degree of effort involved.
Lebanon, July 1958. Major Sam
Cox, operations officer of 2nd Bat-
talion 2nd Marines, the first outfit
into Lebanon. He is in the com-
mand post on the heights over-
My chowhound role with 2nd Bat-
talion 2nd Marines in the camp
on the heights overlooking Bei-
rut. The I'ood of course is C ration.
I had the only jackknil'e in the
outfit that would cut those fancy-
shaped holes in empty ration tins
(center foreground) by which
they became very fast-drawing
stoves for heating the stew. I must
have made do/ens of them for the
Marines during the time I was
with the battalion on this cam-
paign. Photo: U.S. Navy.
Typical scene in one of Castro's command posts in the jungle during the
fighting for the village of Jiguani. Fidel is in the hammock; the beret-
wearer whose face is turned toward the camera (center) is his younger
brother, Raul; and the girl sitting against the tree with the black watch-
strap on her wrist is Vilma Espin, now Mrs. Raul Castro.
LaMaya, Oriente Province, Cuba, December 1958. Lt. Cypriano, a platoon
leader in Castro's forces at the battle for the village of LaMaya, He is
standing up over the protecting sandbags of "The Hole" to show his men
(the hat of one can be seen behind his hip) that he means for them to ex-
pose themselves to the fire of the Blockhouse just as he is doing.
Milwaukee, July 1959. This is the photograph of me at work I like better
than any other. It was taken covering the Marines on Operation Inland
Seas across the same beach where I learned to swim as a little girl. Inland
Seas was a demonstration to salute the opening of the St. Lawrence Sea-
waynobody shot back! The photo was made by M/Sgt. Lew Lowery, a
combat photographer who made every assault landing in the Pacific: cam-
paign. I first knew him during the battle forlwo Jima. Photo: U.S. Marine
(Coil tinned from front flujn
talked her way ashore on Okinawa lu
join a Marine combat patrol in front of
the front lines . . .
parachute jumped with our troops in
Korea . . .
was smuggled into Algeria and wit-
nessed the FLN trial and execution of a
traitor . . .
took some of the first photos of Castro's
troops in action . . .
landed with the Marines in Leba-
non . . .
was caught behind the Iron Curtain
during the Hungarian uprising and held
prisoner for 80 days by the secret police
(most of it in solitary confinement) .
Dickey Ghapelle's adventures have
given her a deep insight into the Ameri-
can righting man and his counterpart the
world over. But it is the insight into the
philosophy and courage of the author
herself that will linger perhaps longest
with the reader. Her account of her ex-
periences is, of course, often amusing;
more frequently it is moving, and always
if; is spirited.
As a reporter she has accepted assign-
ments that would give a brave man
pause. She has done so not because she
loves clanger or violence, but because as
a woman she has always sought the truth.
Hers is a story o enormous human in-
WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY